Candy Crush Saga is a free-to-play match-three puzzle video game released by King on April 12, 2012, for Facebook; other versions for iOS, Android, Windows Phone, and Windows 10 followed. It is a variation of their browser game Candy Crush.
In the game, players complete levels by swapping colored pieces of candy on a game board to make a match of three or more of the same color, eliminating those candies from the board and replacing them with new ones, which could potentially create further matches. Matches of four or more candies create unique candies that act as power-ups with larger board-clearing abilities. Boards have various goals that must be completed within a fixed number of moves or limited amount of time, such as a certain score or collecting a specific number of a type of candy.
Candy Crush Saga is considered one of the first and most successful uses of a freemium model; while the game can be played completely through without spending money, players can buy special actions to help clear more difficult boards, from which King makes its revenues—at its peak the company was reportedly earning almost $1 million per day.[better source needed] Around 2014, over 93 million people were playing Candy Crush Saga, while revenue over a three-month period as reported by King was over $493 million. Five years after its release on mobile, the Candy Crush Saga series has received over 2.7 billion downloads, and the game has been one of the highest-grossing and most-played mobile apps in that time frame.
Candy Crush Saga is a “match three” game, where the core gameplay is based on swapping two adjacent candies among several on the gameboard as to make a row or column of at least three matching-colored candies. On this match, the matched candies are removed from the board, and candies above them fall into the empty spaces, with new candies appearing from the top of the board. This may create a new matched set of candies, which is automatically cleared in the same manner. The player scores points for these matches and gains progressively more points for chain reactions. Additionally, creating matches of four or more candies will create a special candy that, when matched, can clear a row, column, or other section of the board.
The game is split among many levels, which must be completed in sequence. Each level poses a different challenge to the user, such as achieving a minimum score in a fixed number of moves or clearing candies in a fixed number of moves to bring special ingredients to the bottom of the board. Boards have a number of different configurations and may include special spaces that have their own unique rules, such as spaces covered with jelly that must be cleared by making a match on that space. If the player meets the level’s goal, they will be given from one to three stars based on their score and can proceed onto the next level. Otherwise, they will lose one life and must try again. If the player runs out of lives, they have to wait for some period of real-world time while their lives regenerate before attempting the level again. Completed levels can be replayed if desired.
The game has been expanded with a number of episodes, adding a few dozen new levels per episode as well as new gameplay mechanics. Each episode has 15 levels of gameplay. In the game’s first major expansion, the game added a separate set of levels in the Dreamworld. While levels had the same goals, the players had to balance matches of candies of two randomly selected colors to avoid disrupting the sleeping Odus the Owl; if they failed, the level had to be repeated. If they collected enough matched candies to fill a meter, the game would automatically activate the Moon Struck power: the board was cleared of all candies of those two colors, and the player gained a few turns of additional matches without needing to balance colors. After this, Odus returned to sleeping and two new colors were randomly selected for the balance. This continued until the player completed the level or ran out of turns as in the main game. Dreamworld levels used a different set of lives from the main game, allowing the player to switch back and forth between these modes. The Dreamworld is no longer accessible.
Throughout the game, the player solves puzzles so Tiffi (short for Toffette) can solve problems plaguing the residents of the Candy Kingdom. These include tutorial guide Mr. Toffee, whose voice was changed from an over-the-top French accent in the original version of the game into a more modest deep male voice; the Easter Bunny; the shop owner Mr. Yeti; Odus the owl from Dreamworld levels; the villainous Bubblegum Troll; and many others.
In Candy Crush Jelly Saga, the two main characters that the player plays against are the Jelly Queen and Cupcake Carl
Prior to the release of Candy Crush Saga, most of King’s games were browser games offered through their website or partner portals such as Yahoo!. This included Candy Crush, a straightforward tile-matching game released in 2011 which King’s chief creative officer and co-founder Sebastian Knutsson said came after few hundred of other games they had designed for the portal. Candy Crush’s concept had been based on an early game King made, Miner Speed, that borrowed gameplay elements from Bejeweled. Candy Crush added new animations for the candies, and expressive paper doll-like characters that helped to make the game one of five most popular ones on the site by 2012. At that point, the game was a basic score attack game. Knutsson said “the first version was three minutes of great gaming, but that three minutes didn’t really evolve. Candy Crush, as with several of King’s other portal games, featured tournament-style gameplay, where players could spend money to enter competitive tourneys for in-game boosts, which served as one of the main form of revenue for the company in addition to in-game item sale microtransactions and advertisements.
Around 2009, Facebook began to pull in developers, in particular Zynga, to offer social network games that could be built on its fundamental services; for King, this resulting in a large drop in players that they saw from their game portals within a year. At this point, King started to determine how it could enter the Facebook and the associated mobile game markets, breaking up its web development department to work on Facebook and mobile games in 2010, including bringing several of their existing browser games to those platforms. Most of these existing games were introduced as beta versions to Facebook users, and the company used player counts and feedback to determine which of these titles had the most prospect for moving forward, allowing them to focus more intensive development on those titles while dropping the rest, in the style of a rapid prototyping approach. The Facebook platform allowed them to explore expansion of their existing tournament-style games and the ability to include microtransactions within the game.
In April 2011, King released its existing portal game Miner Speed as its first cross-platform (Facebook and mobile) game to figure out the transition between Facebook and mobile games for this new direction. King’s first major success in this area followed with Bubble Witch Saga, released in October 2011; by January 2012 it has attracted over 10 million players and was one of fastest rising Facebook games at that time. Bubble Witch Saga introduced the “saga” approach in contrast to typical tile-matching games, where instead of having the game continue through a fixed amount of time or until the player reached an unplayable state, the game was divided into discrete levels that required the player to complete certain goals within a fixed set of moves, and where the next level could only be reached after completing the previous level. These saga elements allowed for the basics of social gameplay, but did not require the time investment that then-popular titles like Zynga’s FarmVille required; players could play just for a few minutes each day through the saga model. The success of Bubble Witch Saga establishing King as a viable developer in this arena, becoming the second-largest developer by daily player count on the Facebook platform by April 2012, trailing only Zynga.
Candy Crush Saga was selected as King’s next Facebook game based on the popularity of the portal version of Candy Crush. The basic cross-platform framework from Miner Speed were used to craft the foundation of Candy Crush Saga, adding the “saga” elements from Bubble Witch Saga. Initial ideas to expand Candy Crush into Candy Crush Saga were proposed by Knutsson, around 2011, including making the saga map visually look like a board game. The game was first released for Facebook in April 2012, at the time featuring only 65 levels. The game quickly gained popularity, gaining more than 4 million players within a few weeks of release.
King later released mobile versions for iOS and Android that same year, adding a feature that allowed mobile users to synchronize their progress with the Facebook version. Knutsson stated that at that time, with Candy Crush Saga as popular as it was on Facebook, they knew that they “had to get it right” in the transition process. King had previously discussed the nature of games that kept their state between a PC and mobile version with Fabrication Games, believing this was a necessary trend in the future of gaming, Both recognized several of the difficulties that would have to be addressed to provide both the progress synchronization and gameplay interface between mouse-driven PC computers and touch-driven mobile devices. King found that one issue with transiting Bubble Witch Saga to mobile was that the gameplay elements were too small for mobile devices, and aimed to correct that for Candy Crush Saga on mobile. The mobile release delay for Candy Crush Saga was in part due to adding the ability to play the mobile version in an offline mode that would still synchronize once the player returned online.
The mobile version helped to boost popularity of the game, attributed to the nature of the game being able to be played in a pick-up-and-go manner ideally suited for mobile devices. Tommy Palm, one of the four developers for Candy Crush Saga, stated that the first weekend numbers after the game’s mobile release were over ten times greater than the estimates they expected. By January 2013, Candy Crush Saga overtook Zynga’s FarmVille 2 as the top-played game on the Facebook platform.
King had not planned for Candy Crush Saga to be as popular as it was, expecting the game to have only a six-month window after which players would move on to a different game, and thus had committed only minimal resources to its ongoing support at launch. Instead, with the game’s popularity still high by the end of 2012, King became more serious into supporting the game for the long term, looking into deeper game mechanics, adding more levels, and other methods to extending the game. Since its release, Candy Crush Saga was expanded over the years by adding new episodes, each containing a number of new levels. This enabled King to also introduce new gameplay features alongside other game improvements. New features were first tested on King’s own portal to see how players there responded and allowing them to tweak these as needed, then pushed these into the episodes on the Facebook/mobile version. By September 2016, King released its 2000th level for the game to celebrate the milestone of over 1 trillion Candy Crush Saga games having been played. More recently, with the game offered as a free-to-play model, King seeks to provide new content on a weekly or biweekly basis, including time-limited content. Zacconi saw this approach as a means to keep players, who otherwise have not purchased anything, to keep coming back and playing the game.