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King’s Paula Ingvar: a games industry journey from "I’m not worthy!" to Candy Crush Soda’s VP of product

Paula Ingvar moved from traffic engineering to the games industry following encouragement from friends and has "only ever found it stimulating"
King’s Paula Ingvar: a games industry journey from
  • We visited King's headquarters and spoke with Candy Crush Soda Saga’s VP of product Paula Ingvar
  • Ingvar entered the games industry via King after previously working in traffic engineering

Visiting King’s headquarters recently provided plenty of insights into the company’s many successful games, and Candy Crush Soda Saga may well take the cake for having the sweetest insights of them all...

The game first released on Facebook and later became a mobile sensation in its own right, but it was actually originally intended as a replacement to the original Candy Crush.

Instead, the two are now sister titles and Soda is fast approaching its 10th anniversary. And during our time at King HQ in Sweden, we sat down with Paula Ingvar to discuss her journey bursting through the ranks from a Candy Crush Soda fan to the game’s VP of product.

Now coming up on a decade with the company, Ingvar has overseen the growth of Candy Crush Soda Saga and shared all on making a game for Facebook and mobile, expanding content through the years, and whether or not Microsoft’s acquisition of Activision Blizzard really does impact King…

Candy Crush Soda Saga
Candy Crush Soda Saga Could you tell us a bit about your work at King? What does your average day look like?

Paula Ingvar: I'm heading up product for Candy Crush Soda Saga, which means I lead the product teams - and we have a couple of them with separate, specific focuses. They look at the ads, or core gameplay, meta features, or events, for example. I also make sure that Soda meets player demands, delivers on key expectations, et cetera. So that's my job in a nutshell.

I think on a more practical level, it consists of meetings, supporting teams and giving both direction and advice, and sometimes information from the team, talking to stakeholders, et cetera. A lot of coordination-type work.

I work very closely with our head of tech and head of creative; we work in a classic product triad. So that's my closest group and together, between us, we're responsible for the viability, desirability, and feasibility of the game.

So that's a very big pillar of my work - to make sure that all of those things exist in harmony, and that we have a bright 10 years ahead of us as well and just behind us. That's really something we have awoken to: the idea of evergreen live operations, sticking with the magic of what works while infusing it with new stuff. That can be things we see that are new to the market that players have an appetite for, or from the endemic innovation coming from ourselves.

Inspiring words in King HQ
Inspiring words in King HQ

This balance, it’s quite interesting work, I would say. I used to have a career in traffic engineering and quickly switched over from that…

That sounds like quite a shift of industries?

Yeah, like a 90-degree flip! I've been with King for almost 10 years, and I've only ever found it stimulating. I find gaming to be an absolute pleasure to work in.

Were you on the team during Candy Crush Soda Saga’s transition from Facebook to mobile? What was that like? Both versions released so close together…

I think it was weeks in between but I wasn’t on the team back then. At the time it was a little bit of a crude process and we had less content in the game overall - no supporting features, only a thin layer of monetisation on top; most of the features in the game today have been developed since, so like, if you were to compare the game at launch it’s probably 1% or 2% of what it is today.

Even just counting the number of levels, it’s mind-boggling, right? 150 versus 13,000 is just an unimaginable scale.

“I didn’t have any skills that I thought were transferable into the gaming industry, but it turns out there were entry points...”
Paula Ingvar, King

Normally now what we would do is we would have a feature-complete game and then ship it to the different platforms. So in essence, it's almost like you just plug it into a different platform; the content is identical.

So how soon after Soda’s saga began did you join the team?

I joined a couple of months after release. Actually, I was playing Soda before joining and that was my road into King. Like, I was sending feedback as a player and I had a couple of friends working at King and eventually they were like: "Come on, just, just come over here! Obviously this is something you feel passionate about."
And I’m like: "I'm not worthy!"

I didn’t have any skills that I thought were transferable into the gaming industry, but it turns out there were entry points where more of a generalist person could come in.

Are any big changes taking place behind the scenes now that Microsoft has acquired Activision Blizzard?

I would say it's still early days. We go about our business and our strategies as usual. You know, I think it presents amazing opportunities to be part of that bigger context and that family, and I'm excited for what that future brings.

But for us, for now it has been like focusing on what we do best and just staying very very close to our players, while not being distracted by too many of the other things that are happening.

More King on the way…

We had plenty of other fascinating conversations during our time at King HQ, including one with Farm Heroes Saga’s head of product Trevor Burrows. He shared with us the power that art direction can have over a game's success, and how important visuals are to fans - to the point where a new style led to "our numbers literally dropping" before a swift reversal.