The success of King’s “Candy”

Nowadays there’s many more ways to make money on the internet than a simple webshop. As discussed in class, you can adopt a subscription model, an advertising model, a utility model (the cloud, like Dropbox), or one of many other options. Often the combination of several models is what leads to the biggest successes.

Since a decade, the ‘freemium’ model is the dominant business model among internet start-ups and app developers (Kumar, 2014). The term is mostly used to describe the combination of advertising and subscription models. Think of Spotify, which is free as long as you listen to the ads, or is without adds as long as you pay. LinkedIn is another company that offers additional benefits when the customer pays (a ‘premium’  membership). In the world of game applications, a successful app is not where one hás to pay, but where one cán pay. This refers to the in-app purchases, which is responsible for over 65% of iOs and Android appstores’ revenue (Valadares, 2011)!

So why are not all games that offer this model successful? When looking at my own mobile gaming behaviour, most apps are deleted within one month. I get tired of them or I have to pay for the next level and for these kind of reasons I just stop playing. Accept for one app that has been on my phone for over two years now: Candy Crush Saga. I would not usually describe myself as an addict, so that raised questions about my own behaviour: why is Candy Crush Saga so addictive – especially on the long term?

Many psychologists name several factors that contribute to Candy Crush’s success. First, people are responsive to the ‘sweetness’ of the game. Second, the fact that a user can only play for about half an hour, makes sure the user is still fond of the game on the long term (Dockterman, 2013).

But the success is not just about psychological factors. The integration with Facebook is probably the key factor of the game. First of all, this set up provides a cross-platform usage of the application, as this account can be opened on phone, tablet and computer. Another advantage is the communication to other Facebook friends, using Facebook’s network effects. The technology in the app shows users at what level their friends are. As competitive as people are, this makes them even want to play more. As it turns out, it might be a part psychological factor after all.

Another smart move of King, yet other developers do this too, is to increase switching costs for users. The in-app purchases can only be done with ‘golden bars’, Candy Crush’s currency. When users still have golden bars on their account, the human urge (yet another psychological flavour to this) is to continue playing, and so a virtual circle begins.

Many other factors can be described about this success within the mobile gaming industry, but I decided to stick to these few to stress my point. The IT departments are important, but not solely responsible for making a good social game. Users are people, and marketing and psychology need to be integrated into the information strategy to make sure the game is successful on the long term.


Dockterman, E. (2013) ‘Candy Crush Saga: The science behind our addiction’. Accessed at 27 September 2015 through

Kumar, V. (2014) ‘Making Freemium Work’, Harvard Business Review, Mei 2014: 27-29

Valadares, J. (2011) ‘Mobile Freemium Games: Women Thrifty, Men Binge’. Accessed at 27 September 2015 through


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2 responses to “The success of King’s “Candy””

  1. 344159pd says :

    Considering Candy Crush I wonder what their succesful business model exactly is. The integration with Facebook creates a large advantage but they will pay a suitable price for that. Within the game you can proceed indefinitely, and this is one of the main reasons why I think people keep playing it. In most other games you can play to a certain level for free and then you need to ‘unlock’ further access by paying. But the large amount of users of CC might give the wrong idea of valuing them as a group. Playing till level 1000 not having paid once and getting ‘lives’ from ‘friends’ or what is even crazier, changing the time of your phone in order to get new lives shows the addictiveness of the game. For King the revenues from players are exactly zero. the adds of other games are a more aimed towards playing other games provided by King but they do not generate revenues themselves. If Facebook charges them for pay per use I am really wondering where they get all the funds from.

  2. 371392nb says :

    I guess I should have included this in my blog too, but King’s revenue model is actually quite simple: in-app purchases. Monthly, there are approximately 8 million unique users that utilize the option of in-app purchases. On average, these users spend 20 dollars – in ‘gold bars’ to be exact. These numbers are insane, right!? The company now earns a profit of about half a billion dollars!

    The business model of King regarding Candy Crush, existed till 2013 out of both in-app purchases and ads. However, because the revenue out of these in-app purchases was so much, they decided to stop doing advertentions. That’s why I think this business case is so fascinating, lots of users know their way around paying for this game, but apparently there are enough people willing to pay – in order for King to become so successful.

    I hope this answers your question!

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