King.com beats Zynga to steal Facebook crown

BRITISH game developer King.com has leapfrogged US giant Zynga to the top of Facebook’s gaming charts.

The company has seen its Candy Crush Saga puzzle game overtake FarmVille, the game that brought Zynga to prominence before it went public in December 2011. Candy Crush Saga is played by 9.7m people a day, to FarmVille’s 8.8m.

King.com, which is itself tipped for an initial public offering on New York’s Nasdaq exchange, said the rapid rise of Facebook users playing games on their smartphones and tablets had led to its success. Its simple puzzle games appeal to a growing audience of casual gamers, in contrast to more time-consuming games such as FarmVille.

“People are playing more and more on tablets and smartphones, and our casual formats work very well there,” King.com’s chief marketing officer Alex Dale told City A.M. “It’s a lot easier to pick up and play a puzzle game, and with mobiles people can play when they want to.

“King is able to address that because we are focused on those casual games and we are leaders in synchronising games across platforms.”

Dale said the company is not seeing the same growth problems as Zynga, which has seen its shares lose almost three-quarters of their value in just over a year on the market, and that the company is rapidly expanding.

Having employed just 100 staff in mid-2011, King.com now has 330 in offices in London, San Francisco and seven European cities, and is looking to hire 300 more people this year.

Julien Codorniou, Facebook’s head of European gaming partnerships, said King.com was a “poster child for the fast-growing European gaming industry”. “Only a few technology companies in the world have reached so many people so quickly,” he said.

King.com saw revenues of €44.7m (£37.3m) in 2011, the year it began making Facebook games, but this is expected to have exploded last year.