Candy Crush Saga, the free mobile game that took the U.S. by storm in 2013, is now heading to China in a last-ditch effort to save its maker, King Digital Entertainment (NYSE:KING). After striking a deal with Chinese Internet giant Tencent Holdings Ltd. (HKG:0700) in April, King released the game in China on Friday.
Candy Crush, which requires players to match at least three candy-shaped objects, launched in April 2012 and remains one of the most successful mobile games in the world. But the game’s popularity hasn't translated into revenue for King. The game maker’s initial public offering in February is considered one of the worst public debuts for a company in the U.S. Aside from revenue generated from Candy Crush, King has been steadily losing money.
The game will be available to 225 million active users on Tencent’s WeChat platform and King hopes to duplicate the success it has had in the U.S. Candy Crush has been installed on more than 500 million iOS and Android devices. However, Wang Yang, president of FL Mobile, China’s top iOS game publisher, has noted that Chinese users are impatient. He expects that once Candy Crush is available in China, many pirated versions will appear on off-brand app stores. Because of this, Yang says casual games like Candy Crush, with simple rules and mass appeal, don’t monetize well.
King is banking on the highly selective nature of WeChat mobile game distribution to translate to success in China. Tencent limits the options on its WeChat gaming channel to the highest-quality games, and they typically do well.
King is expected to release a sequel to Candy Crush as well as a similar matching game called Diamond Digger Saga.