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Hall of Fame: King CEO Riccardo Zacconi on building a mobile gaming powerhouse

Crushing it with Candy Crush Saga
Hall of Fame: King CEO Riccardo Zacconi on building a mobile gaming powerhouse
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King CEO Riccardo Zacconi needs little introduction.

He co-founded King in 2003 as a company focused on browser games.

After developing a series of games for its own site and other web portals, the firm turned its attention to Facebook as a rising games platform.

It quickly found success with Bubble Witch Saga, but struck real gold when it brought Candy Crush Saga to the social network in 2012.

Within a year, Candy Crush Saga would become the most played game on Facebook and begin its journey on mobile. Today it still remains a stalwart of the app store top 10 grossing charts across the world.

And it's by far King's only hit since making the jump to mobile. There's also been Candy Crush Soda Saga, Farm Heroes Saga, Candy Crush Jelly Saga and Pet Rescue Saga. All sitting in the top 100 grossing charts on the App Store.

The company now employs well over 1,000 staff in studios across the globe to support these smash hits and develop new titles to take the app stores by storm.

Its success and reach in the mobile space convinced Call of Duty publisher Activision to acquire the publisher for some $5.9 billion in November 2015.

Behind all of this growth has been hugely talented teams and its CEO Zacconi, who has spearheaded the rise of one of the games industry's biggest companies.

What were your favourite games as a kid?

Space Invaders and Asteroids.

When did you realise you wanted to make games as a career?

I worked alongside my co-founders at King at previous companies, including uDate.

King has been my first role in the games industry and has been a huge amount of fun.

We all got on very well and worked really well together. Sebastian Knutsson, one of the co-founders of King, was really passionate about games, and we could see that there was a huge market for games as entertainment.

So, back in 2003, we started King together, along with Thomas Hartwig, Patrik Stymne, Lars Markgren, Sebastian Knutsson and myself.

What was your first role in the industry? How did that turn out?

King has been my first role in the games industry and has been a huge amount of fun. We’re constantly humbled that so many people around the world enjoy playing one or more of our games.

What do you consider your first significant success?

When I think about our company, the first thing I’m most proud of, is the team we have here.


We have built a fantastic culture and have some of the most talented people working at King, all around the world, who I enjoy working with every day. That’s been a great success.

We've also worked hard to create some of the best-loved mobile games franchises in the world.

When did the potential for mobile games become apparent to you?

Originally, King made games playable on the web and distributed them both on our own site, but also through partners including AOL and Yahoo! around the world.

A diverse games industry is a great games industry.

In 2009, almost overnight, we noticed a massive drop off in traffic and when we looked into it, we realised that players had jumped across to Facebook.

We had a massive challenge on our hands and we knew we had to innovate.

We focused our team on starting six different experiments to bring our games to Facebook. The game we first launched on that platform was a game called Bubble Saga, and it immediately did very well.

Then, mobile started to become huge, with the launch of iPhone and Android phones. We could really see the potential to create games that you could play anywhere, on any device and not lose your progress.

What do you think is the most significant event in mobile gaming to-date?

There’s too many to pick just one!

We’re most proud of the fact that we spotted the opportunity to create games that our players could pick up and play wherever they were and on any device providing a truly seamless experience across all platforms.


Which mobile games have you most enjoyed recently and why?

There are so many great mobile games coming out at the moment - including some of ours! I love games that help connect people or are quite social – that’s the best way to play games, I think.

What are your predictions for the future of mobile games?

It will remain a growing industry, and I think we’ll see more and more games that allow people to share the game experience and play in a more social way. Games that bring people together.

I love games that help connect people or are quite social – that’s the best way to play games.

In which area of the industry do you hope to make a difference in future?

To me, it’s all about talent.

We’re very focused on diversity at King, supporting a number of programmes which encourage more and more young people to consider a career in games.

For example, we are a Founding Partner for a new college in the UK, ADA, which is the first national college of digital skills and we are supporters of the ‘It Gets Better’ campaign for LGBT rights.

A diverse games industry is a great games industry.

Starting out in simple monochrome in the days of Snake and WAP, the past decade has seen the mobile games industry kaleidoscope into a glorious, multi-billion dollar sector that's driving global innovation.

So it's high time we celebrate some of the people who helped make that journey possible - something is doing in its regular Mobile Gaming Hall of Fame feature.

You can read our previous Hall of Fame articles here.