King Digital Entertainment, the company the brought you Candy Crush Saga, filed for an initial public offering this morning. The offer to investors is simple: for the share price, you receive a small portion of all the cash that Candy Crush junkies will fork over to King until they go through rehab. It’s a lot like investing in a cocaine cartel, if there was one cartel that had a monopoly on cocaine. And if cocaine were legal and without the same risks to human health.
The real question is whether Candy Crush is the kind of addiction that you can recover from, or whether people will stop playing the game a few months after they download it. As Matt Yglesias notes, the download rate for new mobile games tends to fall quickly after a brief period of popularity, and Benedict Evans points out that changes in technology can render certain styles of game play obsolete.
According to King’s filing, Candy Crush was the highest-grossing game on Apple, Google, and Facebook in December–the kind of achievement that maybe you should be a little ashamed to brag about. Yet although only King can sell Candy Crush, addicts can find other fixes. Angry Birds Go! is a perennial classic, as shown in the chart above displaying data from the German firm Priori Data. Subway Surfers, launched along with Candy Crush in the fall of 2012, has been slightly more popular. Despicable Me is a recent hit, launched only this past summer, although observers of the industry aren’t talking about that game, presumably because the audience is largely children and therefore less lucrative.
Rick Munarriz is optimistic about King’s chances on the stock market, arguing the company’s initial public offering won’t fail as did that of its competitor Zynga. Still, it is difficult for a game maker to score more than one hit, so investors shouldn’t rely on King to extend its success with Candy Crush with new games.
The Finnish company Supercell might prove an exception — Hay Day and Clash of the Clans have both been very successful so far. SoftBank acquired a majority share in Supercell last year, valuing the company at $3 billion.
Correction: An earlier version of this chart did not make clear that these data are for downloads from Google Play only and did not include the complete version of the firm that provided the information, Priori Data. The chart has been corrected.