Say the phrase “most popular puzzler ever” and tradition dictates that the words “candy,” and “crush” must follow shortly after.
Having topped the charts as the most downloaded game on Google Play in 2014, King’s match-three puzzler is no stranger to record breaking accolades.
An intoxicating cocktail of addictive gameplay and first-class level design made Candy Crush Saga an instant hit - so how do you match the success of a game that’s become so pervasive, it may as well come pre-installed on all devices?
The answer King has come up with is Candy Crush Soda Saga – a sugary sequel that remains true to its predecessor while providing some significant twists on that winning formula.
We caught up with King’s chief creative officer, Sebastian Knutsson, to find out more about how the company went about developing a follow-up not just to a game, but to a phenomenon.
Pocket Gamer: Is Candy Crush Soda Saga a sister title or a sequel?
Sebastian Knutsson: Candy Crush Soda Saga is the sister title to Candy Crush Saga.
It’s a separate game that’s been designed to play alongside the original and brings lots of fun new features to players who love the gameplay and story of the original but are looking for new challenges and levels.
The two games can be enjoyed side by side
When it was decided to make another Candy Crush game, what was your starting inspiration in terms of keeping the series relevant?
We have millions of players that enjoy playing Candy Crush every day so when thinking about the sister title, we wanted to create a game that was similar enough to the original so that players would recognize it, but at the same time offered a fresh take on the game so it was different in its own right.
The team has done an amazing job in achieving this with Candy Crush Soda.
How do you follow up a $1 billion franchise?
We’ve had to tread very carefully when creating the sister title to a game as hugely successful as Candy Crush Saga.Sebastian Knutsson
We’ve had to tread very carefully when creating the sister title to a game as hugely successful as Candy Crush Saga. We wanted to create a game that was fresh, but still unmistakably Candy - that’s not an easy challenge.
We took time during the development process to find the right gameplay, testing it with users, getting valuable feedback and adapting the game accordingly. We did this until we had a final, polished product we knew our players would have a lot of fun with.
What is the key ingredient that makes Candy Crush Soda Saga so addictive?
We would say the game is engaging, rather than addictive. This next installment in the Candy Crush franchise offers players lots of new dimensions of gameplay which will keep them engaged and wanting to progress further through the Saga map.
The team has done a great job in creating exciting new and improved graphics, new candy combinations and a number of new game modes, in particular the new Soda mode where players switch bottles and candies to release purple Soda and save Candy Bears.
My personal favourite is the ‘Frosting’ game mode where you have to match candies to smash the ice and set the Candy Bears free.
What was the thinking behind the soda aspect?
At the beginning of the development process we experimented with different types of gravity in the game, so candies would float upwards and sideways instead of always falling down the game board.We wanted to bring something new and totally different to our players for the next installment in the franchise.
When we felt that the reversed gravity gameplay really worked it was natural to find something that people could visualize this with and, in a world of candies and sweets, what’s more natural than Soda?
How has King’s relationship with Facebook coloured the development of Candy Crush Soda Saga?
Facebook remains an important partner for us and it adds a social layer to the gameplay experience which allows people to play in a variety of ways, whether it’s on PC or mobile.
With Soda, and in fact all of our Saga games, our goal is to enable our users to play on any device or platform, anytime and in a synchronized way.
We also enabled a new feature for our Soda players on Facebook. If they look in their settings, players can now choose to play the game in full screen mode. I think this enhances the player experience due to Soda’s 3D graphics.
Candy Crush Soda Saga launched one of the most successful video advertising campaigns in Facebook’s history. What was the thinking behind the game’s advertising strategy?
We wanted to celebrate the launch of Candy Crush Soda across multiple channels, so we created a fun, creative and high impact marketing campaign that would entertain our players and generate the excitement and fun that we aim to achieve with our games – the Facebook campaign was one element of our overall campaign.
We currently have 348 million monthly unique users in our network.Sebastian Knutsson
We celebrated the launch of the game with some really fun events, triggering a magical Soda fountain display at Tower Bridge in London and transforming a stretch of Broadway in New York with giant versions of the new candies, Candy Bears and Soda. These events were followed by the global launch of King’s first ever live action TV ad for Candy Crush Soda as well as a high impact outdoor campaigns in major city locations and transport hubs.
There are a lot of nods to other King games in Candy Crush Soda Saga – did you intend to create a kind of gaming ecosystem?
At King, we are continuously focused on retaining our large network of players and do this by creating a portfolio of games that we know they will love and have broad appeal.
We currently have 348 million monthly unique users in our network (as of Q3 2014) many of whom have enjoyed several of King games such as cross-platform titles Farm Heroes Saga, Pet Rescue Saga, Bubble Witch 2 Saga and Diamond Digger Saga.
What were the main challenges you encountered during development, and how did you overcome them?
Creating the next installment in a franchise as well known and loved as Candy Crush Saga was always going to be a challenge. It’s not easy to try and keep what’s great about the game and still bring something fresh. We needed to find new gameplay that made it different enough so that it felt like a sister game.
A lot of love has gone into every detail of this game to ensure it delivers the best passible experience for our players. The score for the game was recorded by the London Symphony Orchestra at Abbey Road Studios.
We’ve also thoroughly tested all gameplay elements with users. At one point we had 30 different variations of the game live in parallel during the testing phase so we could get feedback from our players. So now what you see in the stores is the result of a lot of hard work in perfecting the game.
Has one OS been better for Candy Crush Soda Saga than the other? Do you see any difference between mobile and tablet players?
We have also begun work on the next big feature extension to the original Candy Crush Saga game as part of our 1.5 initiative.Sebastian Knutsson
At King, our approach is to allow players to access our Saga games on any device, and where and any time, which means all of the platforms where players want to be are important to us.
What's the global reaction been like to the game or has the main audience been North America/Europe?
The feedback from players since the game launched on mobile has been incredibly positive and the game is in the top download charts in multiple major markets.
What plans do you have for the franchise moving forward?
Our strategy is to develop long-standing global game franchises. We will continue to invest in both the original Candy Crush Saga game and Soda, adding levels every few weeks.
We have also begun work on the next big feature extension to the original Candy Crush Saga game as part of our 1.5 initiative. We’ll introduce new game mechanics and drivers of social engagement beyond the current product set.