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Friday, November 6, 2015

What Is Behind The Success Of Candy Crush's Attraction Of Female Gamers?

Candy Crush has been studied in great depth due to its stand out position as one of the most successful online games ever created.   Game designers, publishers,  gaming operators and investors envy the success of Candy Crush and the brand that has emerged from its success. Acknowledged experts in the field of addictive behavior  place it in the same category as Angry Birds  and traditional casino slot machines in terms of its popularity and ability to maintain high levels of engagement and repetitive play. All of this is great. However, the real reason the gaming industry is so interested in Candy Crush is its ability to "monetize" game play and cater to a female audience that has largely been ignored in the gaming world.   In its halcyon days Candy Crush was generating close to $900,000 USD per day. That is a very good day at the office!! 

So what are the game mechanics, visual experience,  target audience, game access, etc. characteristics of Candy Crush that separate Candy Crush from the other games to create a unique and one of kind experiences that lead to high levels of engagement and monetization for the female audience?

 Accessibility/Virality - The emergence of Facebook as a gaming and application  platform has had a big impact on the gaming industry. Initially launched as a social network only  platform the move to add apps to its offering and especially game apps has completely changed the gaming world. This is old news. However, with the emergence of mobile as an app and game platform  people forget how important and strategic a launch  of a game in the Facebook environment can be.  Although Facebook has virtually eliminated "virality" there is still the ability to reach ones own connections and engage with these connections to promote an app.  Even in a mobile only environment Candy Crush provides the ability to engage with "friends" notifying them of ones participation in the app. More importantly, the social nature of Facebook continues to be attractive to the "female" demographic due to its "social" features.

Specific Design For Mobile And Facebook -  King's initial launch of Candy Crush in Facebook was very strategic designed to leverage the "social" nature of the target female audience. With the success of the Facebook introduction King "ported" the app to mobile.  Although  initially designed for  and launched in Facebook Candy Crush's mobile implementation is specifically designed for a mobile platform. This may seem to be an obvious thing to do. However, many apps are developed on one platform and are "ported" to others without taking into consideration the specifics of the environment they are ported too. For instance, the "real estate and access points in a Facebook environment are very different then the experience on iPhone/iPad and Android based devices.  In addition, "virality" infrastructure is  not "native" to mobile requiring in app invitation and virality features to be added to encourage engagement on a viral scale in a mobile context.

Easy To Understand And Play -  This may seem obvious, however, many games that are launched include "mechanics" that assume a certain "skill" level.  For instance, "role playing" games which have been popular on a number of gaming platforms including consoles were some of the first games to appear in the Facebook environment. These games are rather complex and evolve and morph as a game is played making them unappealing to the "casual" gaming audience.  The market for these  style games is loyal and likely male oriented.  Compared to easy to use social games role playing games have a  relatively  small audience.   Alternatively, Candy Crush takes its inspiration  from classic slot games which attract a large audience due to their ease of use,  engaging graphics and  clever sound effects.

Continuous Play And Advancing -    Candy Crush in many ways is a game that can be continuously played with the added benefit of advancing to new levels in the game.  The inspiration for this form of engagement comes form the slot world where access to new levels in the game encourage people to attempt to reach these levels. Also, when in a new level the game itself may change resulting in a new experience avoiding the boredom factor.

 Colors, Visual Appeal And Female Targeting  - Colors and layout matter in any game app determining the demographic target for the  game. Candy Crush uses "bold" colors to accentuate the activity in the game. However, the most important color differentiation is the use of "Pink" in the game. This obviously appears to the female audience making that audience comfortable and engaging in terms of community and interest.  

In Game Monetization -  Candy Crush is clever in the way it encourages the purchase of virtual currency at key inflection points in the app. It leads a player to a certain threshold of success and then offers the player the option to purchase more currency to advance even further. 

 King's  conscious effort to attract the female audience to its game offerings with the introduction of Candy Crush has proven to be successful. The design of the game was especially crafted to leverage the natural social propensity for this demographic resulting in a high virality coefficient. The success of Candy Crush demonstrates that females are also "gamers". Vegas has recognized this for decades. The social game development community is now beginning to get it as well. 

Kevin Flood is the CEO of Gameinlane, Inc. Gameinlane  has developed, launched and operated Internet gambling sites in Europe.   The company engages with land based casino  operators, online gambling operators, social casino operator and game developers to assist them in determining their strategy and implementation  of game content.  Gameinlane   develops "social and real money" casino games for third parties. Kevin has worked for and with US land based casino operators helping them evaluate social casino and iGaming platforms for the purpose of joint ventures and acquisitions. Kevin can be reached at kflood@gameinlane.com.

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