King.com, worldwide leader in cross-platform, casual games anywhere, anytime, through any platform and device, and famous for notable industry success stories such as Candy Crush and Bubble Witch Saga, has experienced spectacular growth in recent years. Just to give an example, every month 30 billion King games are played globally.
Part of this success is down to work coming out of its Barcelona development centre, so we talked to local office head Manel Sort to find out more about the company’s growth and about the gaming sector in Catalonia.
Global attraction of the games
According to Manel, the first pillar of its success is the global attraction of the games, with each one promoting another. And the secret of ensuring that players accept your games is having the world’s largest playtesting team, royalgames.com, which guarantees that, before being launched on Facebook and other mobile platforms, all games can be filtered to allow only the best to reach the players. That way you avoid making expensive investments in unsuccessful product launches.
Users have become used to that fact that all King games offer a consistently good gaming experience, from individual casual gaming moments to social gaming with friends. And this positive experience means that monetising games is easier, with users progressing from being free users to players willing to pay to enrich the experience.
Another pillar that has played in King’s favour has been its decision to focus on what is known as bite-sized entertainment. In other words, games that can be easily learnt and are enjoyable to play for short periods of time often on mobile devices. They are extremely popular on social platforms where they can be shared with friends, so boosting growth.
Talent and teamwork
Behind these two pillars is one very clear aspect: talent. And the fact that King has one of its development centres in Barcelona, along with London, Stockholm, Malmo, Berlin and Bucharest (as well as offices in New York, San Francisco and Malta) is precisely because of its philosophy of seeking out talented leaders wherever they might be and then allowing them to choose where they wish to set up offices.
In the case of Manel, with more than 14 years of experience in the industry and previously Vice President at Digital Chocolate, his choice was Barcelona thanks to its deeply implanted local culture of video games plus the fact that the city easily attracts talent from around the world, and that explains the company’s multicultural workforce. As he puts it, “Barcelona as a city attracts talent from all over the world, for reasons so obvious there is no need to state them”.
Another reason for this success is present market conditions. The IOS and Google Playstore game market is estimated to be worth over €10,000M and 50% of this figure belongs to only 7 companies – King being one of them. This figure is set to rise to some €86,000M in only two years. The main losers in this gaming market are the boxed PC games, followed by video game consoles and Facebook games. In other words, it seems fairly clear that the future will belong to mobile online games.
Career-wise, the sector also obviously has a great future too. Software developers who work at King.com normally have a degree and master in video-gaming, while the artists have come from an arts degree with a master in video game graphics. Other team members have varied backgrounds, from architecture or computer engineering to science, with postgraduate degrees varying from project management to business administration and marketing. However, Manel is quick to point out that if you want to to design quality applications, technical qualifications are not enough, and that King favours a more holistic professional approach: something that they achieve through teamwork and using different psychological techniques such as Mindfulness.
Future of the sector
The positive future of the sector is also good news for Catalonia where, in Manel’s opinion, the videogame cluster is still relatively small but is growing at a good rate. This growth is also making inroads into the functional and economic framework of the region, with a rise in collaboration between universities and training centres, and also between companies themselves. Manel has a favourable view of the different initiatives in Barcelona to promote the sector but warns against complacency and recommends studying the Korean and Finnish business models in order to learn from their success. Even so, it is clear that the sector is beginning to make its presence known here; in the last European Games Conference held in Barcelona in June 2013 over 1,500 professionals attended, along with over 200 companies from 20 countries, with more than 10,000 visitors coming to the event.