LONDON — King, the mobile game developer behind the wildly popular Candy Crush franchise, is banking on a new Crash Bandicoot mobile game being its next big success.
The London gaming studio — acquired by Call of Duty maker Activision Blizzard in 2015 for $5.9 billion —announced last week that it is planning to launch Crash Bandicoot: On the Run! next spring.
First launched on Sony’s original PlayStation in 1996, Crash Bandicoot has become one of the most iconic characters in the gaming world. Over the years, the crazy bandicoot, his sister Coco and the evil Doctor Neo Cortex have featured in multiple games on multiple platforms including the Microsoft Xbox and the Nintendo GameCube.
The upcoming game is what’s known as an “endless runner,” putting it in the same camp as the likes of Temple Run and Sonic Dash.
King President Humam Sakhnini told CNBC: “I think the world is going to take note when we bring this to market. It’s super polished, and a great runner game.” He added the game is “going to be a big thing that we’re focusing on for the next 12 months.”
Sakhnini, who used to play Crash Bandicoot “20 plus” years ago, said that the game will leverage the “iconic” intellectual property from the Crash Bandicoot series, which is owned by Activision Blizzard today. Launching on iOS and Android, Crash Bandicoot: On the Run! tasks players with collecting ingredients that can be used to build weapons.
Like Candy Crush, it will be free to play but users will likely be able to pay for certain items and features within the game such as extra lives and power-ups like the famed Aku Aku invincibility mask. It’s also likely that the game will feature advertising at some point.
Louise Shorthouse, a senior games analyst at Ampere Analysis, told CNBC that it’s hard to say how popular the new Crash game will be.
“Crash Bandicoot is obviously a well-known (and well-loved) IP, but we’ve seen before that this doesn’t guarantee success,” she told CNBC via email, before pointing to Harry Potter Wizards Unite, which failed to take off in the way that Pokemon Go did.
Launched almost a decade ago, Candy Crush Saga was downloaded 2.7 billion times, making it one of the most downloaded games of all time. It is also one of the highest-grossing and most played mobile apps ever.
Meanwhile, more than 10 million people have signed up for pre-registration for the new Crash game, according to Sakhnini. “The fan reception has been amazing,” he said, but he declined to comment when asked how many times he expects it to be downloaded in total.
Steve Bailey, principal analyst at research firm Omdia, told CNBC that the game won’t be as popular as the Candy Crush games.
“Those are built from the ground-up, over several years, by a large, dedicated team, to maximize retention and monetization on an industry-defining scale,” he said. “This doesn’t mean that it won’t be successful, but there are potentially other roles this game could play that represent value for Activision Blizzard.”
Bailey expects the game to peak at a high position in the charts if it’s “well-made” but not to remain there for an extended period.
“Runner games are well established, and hence a reliable bet. But this also means that the popularity is likely to be capped, too,” said Bailey. “The immense promotional network available via the Candy Crush audience will no doubt provide a boost of visibility.”
Overall, the game is likely to be profitable for King, according to Bailey, who pointed out that King “understands retention and monetization.” He said the company will look to capitalize on Crash Bandicoot’s brand momentum.
With almost 2,000 staff across Europe, King made up 31% of Activision Blizzard’s overall revenues in its most recent third quarter, with overall net revenue coming in at $1.95 billion, up from $1.28 billion for the third quarter of 2019.
While other companies are reducing the size of their workforce, King is hiring: It has 100 open roles on its website.