Why the company behind Candy Crush won’t be the second coming of Zynga

Forget Zynga; King is a different kind of game company.
Forget Zynga; King is a different kind of game company.
Image: Reuters/Stephen Lam
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It hasn’t even been two years since mobile game maker Zynga went public, then promptly saw its stock plummet to a fraction of its IPO value. Now, British-based game developer King, best known for its hit game Candy Crush, has reportedly filed paperwork for an initial public offering. Have they learned nothing?

It’s tempting to compare King and Zynga, but there’s actually quite a bit to differentiate the two companies.

For one, King is ancient compared to Zynga. The company has been developing games for 10 years; it has been profitable since 2005. Zynga, on the other hand, filed for its IPO right about the time the company tasted its first bites of large-scale success. Its meteoric rise in 2011 culminated in its public offering at the end of that year.

King is also far more particular about the kind of games it develops. Zynga dips its hands into a slew of categories, from matching games to word games and even zombie games, but King pretty much exclusively makes arcade games. The company knows what’s working, understands what it’s good at, and sticks to it. The benefit of this sort of specialization is that it owns and understands a space that exists not only on Facebook, but on mobile platforms, like iOS and Android.

But the most important distinction is that King is much better prepared for a future in which Candy Crush falls out of favor with its fans than Zynga was when its hit, Farmville, finally declined. King.com, King’s destination site, is something of a secret, strategic gem for the game developer. Although the company still rakes in the vast majority of its revenues from Facebook and other mobile platforms, King.com is where it tests the viral potential of its games. Only the most popular games on the website graduate to other platforms like Facebook and iOS.

Its’s understandable why sirens are sounding, especially considering that the last big mobile game creator to launch an IPO fell face-first shortly thereafter. But there’s also plenty of reason to expect a different outcome when King goes public.