Activision Buys Candy Crash Firm King.Com For $5.9Bn

That is… quite a lot of money. $1.9 billion more than Disney paid for Star Wars. $3.4 billion more than Microsoft paid for Minecraft. $3.9 billion more than Facebook paid for Oculus. $5.15 billion more than EA paid for PopCap. Hell, even if you just succumb to temptation and round the $5.9 billion (or approximately £3.8 billion/€5.4 billion) Activision Blizzard just paid to acquire King.com up to $6 billion, that’s 100 million dollars you’re flinging about the place like it ain’t no thang. Quite a lot of money. And for what?

Well, for a company which makes free-to-play match-3 puzzle games that are played by a helluvalot of people on Facebook and mobile (and there are PC versions for Candy Crush Saga too, naturally).

The reason the company which owns Call of Duty, Destiny, Warcraft, StarCraft, Skylanders et al just brokered one of the biggest deals in history is because, for all its games industry dominance, it doesn’t have much of a foothold in mobile, with all its free-to-play/microtransacted low-hanging fruit. Picking up King.com essentially puts its somewhere near the very top of the App Store hierarchy.

“Activision Blizzard believes that the addition of King’s highly-complementary business will position Activision Blizzard as a global leader in interactive entertainment across mobile, console and PC platforms, and positions the company for future growth,” read a sentence parsed through approximately 28 stern people in expensive suits before release this morning.

Even so, many have felt that King.com was a one-trick pony (even if said pony was astonishingly lucrative), and doomed to see the same bubble-burst shareprice apocalypse as one time social game titan Zynga. For reference, King.com’s total 2014 revenue was $2.4 billion, 20% up on the previous year, although ‘only’ $661 million of that translated into profits.

So it’d take Activision several years to earn all their money back if King’s takings stayed exactly as they were – but who knows what pairing Activision’s existing mega-brands with Candy Crush’s name, ethos or customer base could achieve. Equally, the whole boat could sink as customers lost interest in That Sort Of Thing, as was the case with FarmVille.

But while King has certainly had its wobbles (both shareprice-wise and being utter rotters-wise), by this point it’s arguably demonstrated more staying power than Zynga did – perhaps partially because mobile is a more evergreen platform than Facebook games were. Both Candy Crush Saga and Candy Crush Soda Saga are in the top-five highest-grossing mobile games to this day. No-one seems to talk much about the browser and Facebook versions of Candy Crush, but I’d imagine they’re sweet little earners in their own right.

Still, makes Star Wars seem like a veritable bargain for Disney, eh? Whether buying King.com for a cool $18 per share is shrewd business sense or unbelievable folly from Activision Blizzard remains to be seen, as does what it means for its historically enormous investment in trad. videogames, but in the meantime, expect its logo to be even more ubiquitous than it already was.

Commented Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick, “The combined revenues and profits solidify our position as the largest, most profitable standalone company in interactive entertainment. With a combined global network of more than half a billion monthly active users, our potential to reach audiences around the world on the device of their choosing enables us to deliver great games to even bigger audiences than ever before.”

TL;DR: “Money money money money money money money.”

The purchase is due to complete by next spring.

From this site

101 Comments

  1. padger says:

    The R&D costs of creating a Match 3 game are considerable, of course. You can see why they’d need to buy in King’s hi-tech game labs and expertise.

    • Capt. Bumchum McMerryweather says:

      Yes but now they make all the money that candy crush makes. Which is a fat pile of cash in the long run. They also have the benefit of having an established brand to sell products on the back of, along with a hefty increase in their stock price. If you ask me Activision just made a pretty smart move.

      • chaos4u says:

        so i guess it is smarter to buy a IP with lil to no assets, locked in a dead end market that will most likely be dead in 5 years. then it is to actually spend the few 100 mil to actually finish the IP you was working on (titan) that will give the company a broad ip to market with a lot more assets to use, and most likely would have generated more revenue for the company than candy crush ever could.

        some one needs to be fired.

        • Vorrin says:

          Sure, currently nonexistent ip will obviously make more money than candy crush, for reasons, what were they thinking!

        • Capt. Bumchum McMerryweather says:

          Yeah, because there’s so much evidence to suggest that mobile is a dead end market. All that year on year growth, coupled with the largest installed user base of any other industry, is very telling to the end of mobile gaming forever!!

          Capable smartphones are getting ever cheaper. The more people that buy these phones, the more likely that you’ll get complete whoppers who will pay 59p for extra lives. Candy crush and games like it are going nowhere, and Activision’s stocks are just going to keep piling up, which is all Kotick gives a toss about.

        • Nevard says:

          They are already re-purposing Titan’s assets into a different game, they cancelled the original Titan concept because they did not think it would be profitable.
          Why would expending money finishing a game they don’t believe would make them any money be a good idea?

      • mattevansc3 says:

        At $660m profits a year its going to take more than nine tears before they make a profit out of this game.

        Does Candy Crush really have that staying power? While RPS mentioned Zynga Rovio would be a much better comparison.

        Angry Birds was all conquering for some time with huge profits, big licence tie-ins, semi-sequels, a huge merchandising business and now? Huge layoffs, underwhelming revenue and a sequel that couldn’t reignite interest.

        Microsoft’s purchase of Minecraft was questionable at $2.5bn but there was room to grow and expand that market. As seen with the AR demo Microsoft is also able to use it to sell its technology. Is Activision really able to expand the Candy Crush market to profit (not just recoup) that $6bn spend? I’m not entirely sure.

        • SuicideKing says:

          More than nine tears indeed! :D

        • DeVadder says:

          Well obviously it takes several years to recoup the sell price if at all. That is basically what “This company is worth this much” means. If it was certain that King would earn it’s price within 5 years, everyone who can scratch together that much money right now would be an idiot to not buy it.
          Roughly a decade to recoup the buy price if everything works out is in fact comparably cheap for a company. The whole question is, does Activision believe they can make more of the company than what everyone else could do due to synergy or having better ideas for it. And apaprently they do think so.

        • Buggery says:

          Ya, Minecraft has some excellent merchandising cash involved and an established and constantly updating fanbase from younger kids to teens and adults that makes it something of a hot property – like Pokemon. Even just licensing the rights to making books, toys and spin-off properties would see a healthy return. Which is to say nothing of the potential involved with a competent development team at the helm of the actual game (Notch is a nice guy but not very good at producing a polished product.)

          King has Candy Crush – which doesn’t really have merchandise properties and is smack dab in the middle of a market that is completely impossible to establish trends or even predict from year to year. It’s really hard to see how anyone could have thought that it was worth spending 6 billion on them unless they have developed and attained exclusive rights to something amazing and revolutionary… like a match 4 title! Or Tetris but with candy and micropayments. Or a legal form of Heroin.

    • chaos4u says:

      thinking this through a lil more , im thinking they are setting them selves up for a sale.

      activision blizzard

      has the largest mmo
      has the largest mobile presence

      buy now for XXX billions…

      only way i can make sense of it.

      • kael13 says:

        To whom exactly? What other publisher has that kind of money?

      • Capt. Bumchum McMerryweather says:

        This makes more sense: Activision are now a player in every market. They have brands in consoles, PC, and mobile. With that in mind, they will not struggle to get publishing deals wherever they go, and mobile is a great one for them, since it is a micro transaction money pot for anyone with the resources to install themselves into.

  2. bandertroll says:

    Blizzard gonna mad long time ago…

  3. Baring says:

    Any association with Candy Crush or King.com is enough to make me do a 180 degree turn.. I hope Activision wasn’t planning on selling me any additional games in the future.

    • DeVadder says:

      I would not be surprised if we heared some announcement from Activision concerning Kings trademarks and their future application for that very reason.

    • PearlChoco says:

      No worries, I’m sure they’ll use all the Candy Crush money to finance Warcraft 4.

  4. chaos4u says:

    wow what a waste of money, so little for the ammount the cash.

  5. Spacewalk says:

    Money well spent.

  6. Premium User Badge

    distantlurker says:

    B-Zynga!

  7. Pazguato says:

    The Reign of Evil keep growing.

  8. guygodbois00 says:

    Kotick, at his best.”The combined revenues and profits …”

  9. Replikant says:

    It seems to another instance of “irrational act caused by too much money”. You can’t decide how to spend it, the pile of money keeps growing and suddenly you spend it all on headphones (Apple) or VR goggles (Facebook) or … Candy Crush, for heavens sake?!?
    Completely irrational psychological malfunction. Anyways, there is this thing called “buyers remorse”, I believe.

    Musk is trying to get to Mars. Completely hare-brained as well, but at least very, very cool.

    • LionsPhil says:

      Musk is at least building businesses to try to save the human race. You can still call him crazy for having a goal that ambitious, or some kind of charlatan for not doing it with ethically-sourced organic free-range charity, but at least he has motives other than “turn all this money into even more money, while being generally abusive to a creative industry”.

      • Replikant says:

        Don’t get me wrong, I am all for saving the human race. I just don’t particularly see how being on Mars will help with that. It seems to me that it is infinitely easier to keep earth habitable than to terraform Mars.

        • Valkyr says:

          Depends on the demographics involved in your vision of the future.

        • kael13 says:

          Call it an insurance policy. Start extending timescales and suddenly events like large asteroids become relevant.

        • suibhne says:

          Of course, Musk is also working pretty damn hard to keep Earth habitable, too. That’s what Tesla (not just the cars, but even more the house-grade battery systems) and the hyperloop are all about, e.g. So he’s probably earned a little Mars-bothering.

      • Cinek says:

        Musk is at least building businesses to try to save the human race” – bahahahaha, what a BS.

  10. velvetvoulge says:

    Are we going to be seeing Candy Crush: Zombies soon, then?

  11. Guvornator says:

    “For reference, King.com’s total 2014 revenue was $2.4 billion, 20% up on the previous year, although ‘only’ $661 million of that translated into profits.
    So it’d take Activision several years to earn all their money back if King’s takings stayed exactly as they were”

    Which is fine – in fact, it’s possibly quite useful. It’s a £661 million profit* company that’s still showing growth. That’s pretty rare. And if they put any debt incurred back on King, they can they use it to reduce the group’s profits.

    *declared profit is a slightly iffy way of judging a company’s worth, as most mega companies do their darndest to reduce gross profits to avoid tax.

    • Gothnak says:

      If i put £1000 in a bank account and was told i’d make my money back in interest in 6 years, that’d be amazing! In theory they are getting 16% interest on their cash as long as they don’t blow the company up in the meantime.

    • MooseMuffin says:

      King made the right game at the right time and has a powerful brand, but in terms of what they have to offer creatively there’s really nothing there. Why wouldn’t Activision just lay everyone off? Pretty sure Candy Crush would continue to generate cash for years.

  12. The Dark One says:

    Slap “Candy Crush” in front of your tie-mobile app and I’m sure you’ll make millions in extra profit. I can see it now: to unlock those grimoire entries in Destiny 2, you’ll have to beat a match-3 level first (or unlock your next three encounters for $0.99!).

  13. Kollega says:

    Whenever some corporation spends the budget of a small country on gobbling up some super-popular brand, it makes me think that at some point, we’ll end up with one hypercorporation owning all of the world’s entertainment brands. We are the Borg, resistance is futile, etc etc.

    • mashkeyboardgetusername says:

      I can’t remember the exact statistic, but it goes something like: the amount of money traded in London’s finance district in a year is more than the value of all material goods sold in the UK over the 100 years preceding it (accounting for inflation). Basically, modern corporate finance is absolutely batshit, it’s barely even real numbers they’re playing with.

      *waits for someone to post snopes link*

      • Kollega says:

        Oh, make no mistake, I think it’s completely bananas to repeatedly hand money back and forth without actually producing anything. I suspect it’s just so that all the sleazy accountants and lawyers can have a job too, or something.

        • Gap Gen says:

          Yeah modern finance is basically a way to skim money out of the global economy, as far as I can tell.

          • Nereus says:

            You’re correct, in that much of the finance industry revolves around derivatives which are effectively just made up commodities attached to physical commodities. It is not quite like printing money but most of the same principles apply.

    • Cinek says:

      That would be a slightly bigger Disney. ;)

      • Kollega says:

        Which is exactly the company that I meant when I wrote that :P

  14. Premium User Badge

    basilisk says:

    A thoroughly immoral company bought for a thoroughly sum amount of money. I don’t want to sound like a closet anarchist here, but I find these excesses quite disgusting. Think of all the useful and helpful things that 6 billion dollars could buy.

    (And yes, I know capitalism doesn’t work that way. But it’s ludicrous all the same.)

    • frightlever says:

      Well, it probably equates to a couple hundred dollars per regular paying player that King has, if that makes it any easier to swallow. It’s the size of the userbase that makes the numbers so large.

    • geldonyetich says:

      They’re not responding for the rest of the world, but if Activision has that much money to throw around, I’d settle for them making better games.

  15. Lobotomist says:

    I think Activision just blew all the money they ever made with World of Warcraft franchise on this.

    Its insane in every aspect. From business, ethical, or even existential. I can almost hear mad super villain chuckling in background.

    Just the sign of the insane time we are living in.

  16. 2Ben says:

    And then people bitch and moan about 100 millions for Star Citizen… Go figure…

    • Jenks says:

      Well Derek Smart says there’s a problem, so that raises a ton of red flags about the project for intelligent people. Ignore Derek Smart at your own peril!

    • Hmm-Hmm. says:

      That doesn’t seem really comparable. Mostly because where the money comes from. If Donald Trump decided to splurge on a game company a million dollars wouldn’t be much, but if I wanted to, a million dollars would be.. well.. out of my reach. Not the best comparison, granted, but it feels like that, to me.

    • Buggery says:

      Yep, grabbing money from rubes for jpegs of spaceships is the same as spending dumb amounts of corporate cash on another company. If one company does dumb thing then it’s a-okay to allow another company to do dumb thing.

  17. foszae says:

    And the suits at Activision who pushed this deal through are probably going to receive handsome executive bonuses specifically for this brilliant acquisition.

    Shoulda gotten a “Business” degree.

  18. ansionnach says:

    Good analysis. Looks like utter folly to me. King’s success certainty matches the bubble pattern. Would have been better to wait and see… and if there was interest from competitors let them buy it and take a massive financial hit. Perhaps the company’s fortunes will be better now as part of Activision? I wouldn’t imagine them going from strength to strength either way.

  19. Talahar says:

    Basically the devil bought satan. The franchise is truly heading in the right direction. down. to hell. in a handbasket made out of money.

  20. thelastpointer says:

    I don’t think this is an irrational move at all. (In fact, saying so is a bit ignorant thing to do.)
    It is in any company’s best interest to turn their cash into something profitable. With this move, instead of $6bn cash, which does not generate any value, they have a $6bn asset, which is going to bring money in.
    I’ve heard this argument while discussing the Minecraft acquisition, so I’m naturally an expert on this now.

    • mattevansc3 says:

      That all depends on how that $6bn was raised. Does Activision have $6bn lying in a back account somewhere, are they going to offset out against the next few years profits, did they secure a loan for full/part of the asking buy offsetting it against future revenues or a mixture of the three?

      Its not just the $6bn upfront cost that’s got to be taken into account. In the time it takes this dream to turn a profit how much money would have Activision earned on interest if that money just sat in an account? If it was a loan how much interest is Activision paying on top of the money and if they after offering it against profits then there’s a strong chance that Activision’s shares will take a hit which can affect borrowing rates and investor funding in the future.

      • thelastpointer says:

        “For reference, King.com’s total 2014 revenue was $2.4 billion, 20% up on the previous year, although ‘only’ $661 million of that translated into profits.”
        Compared to $6bn, that’s more than 10% interest each year (after taxes, probably?). I don’t have the numbers, of course, but I believe that usual interest rates are more like 7% or so. I’m sure that putting billions of dollars in a bank isn’t a very trivial thing to do either :)

        Anyway, I’m just saying that this isn’t satan destroying the world nor stupid people doing insane things while laughing at poor gamers — it’s a viable business move.

        • apa says:

          Yep, you don’t just do a $6B deal without massive business planning and due diligence.

          • Merlin the tuna says:

            As someone who has done contracts large and small with companies large and small… that’s adorable.

          • Arglebargle says:

            Whenever I see ‘The speed of business!’, or ‘Business acumen!’, it makes me laugh.

            Of course, I got to watch the folly and disaster of Enron and Tycho up close. There was that wonderful sequence of Forbes’s ‘CEOs of the Year’ being under felony indictment the next.

    • suibhne says:

      If purchasing King.com was really the best use of $5.9B of Activision’s money, out of all alternatives, then it was a rational choice. But it says something about the alternatives open to Activision’s right now – and maybe re-confirms that Activision is maybe the most hit-driven of all big game publishers in the world. While EA and Ubi invest in small, occasionally interesting projects alongside their stable of big releases, Activision does only…this.

      (Bear in mind, however, that this deal certainly includes a huge amount of debt financing, so that’s probably more like $3-4B in cash.)

      Either way, Activision and King.com are awful enough to deserve each other.

    • FriendlyFire says:

      You’re assuming that the asset is actually worth $6Bn. I’m not quite sure that that’s the case.

      • thelastpointer says:

        Here’s the catch: it’s worth $6bn, because it was sold for $6bn. But it doesn’t really matter, King’s annual profit is the key here. I think. King’s value will likely fluctuate over the years anyway.

        Also, others are bringing up very good points about additional value: entering a new market, gaining users etc.

        • Phytic says:

          It is only worth $6bn at the moment- each each year Activision should be reviewing the value of the investment (and as it is such a huge value you’d hope it is reviewed annually).

          If it is determined to be worth less than $6bn, then the value of the investment will be reduced which will be reflected as a cost in that year, which could lead to a nasty shock for Activision shareholders…

  21. Solidstate89 says:

    It’s a match made in heaven. Two shit-bag CEOs running two unscrupulous companies.

    • Premium User Badge

      Don Reba says:

      Blizzard hasn’t made anything good since Brood Wars, they deserve each other.

  22. yan spaceman says:

    Of course, co-founding King partner and chairman Mel Morris is now owner of Derby County super rams (COYR). Expect to see Lionel Messi in a Rams shirt soon. Woo hoo!

  23. DarkMukke says:

    TL;DR: should be on the beginning of the article, otherwise it is completely redundant by the time you arrive at the bottom of the article

    • pepperfez says:

      But then the tense of “too long; didn’t read” would be improper. It would have to be tl;ngtr instead.

  24. smeghamr says:

    By next spring, the next “big thing” will have been released, nobody will be playing Candy Crush, and Blizzard will have just pissed away all their money. The fact that nobody seems to have pointed this out to Blizzard in any form in the duration of the this purchase is a testament to how shitclown retarded they actually are.

    And Amen to that.

    • smeghamr says:

      Accidently a the.

    • There says:

      Candy Crush and its ‘sequels’ or whatever they’re called have been some of the next big things for what? 3 years now. Doesn’t seem like people are bored yet… Besides, King’s just released Paradise Bay, which is basically another Hay Day–another ‘big thing’ from the rival company Supercell–, and which seems to be already a success if Play Store ranks mean anything.

    • HERP DERP NANOMACHINES says:

      “nobody will be playing Candy Crush” Rock and Roll is on the way out?

  25. Mr Coot says:

    Expensive but incredibly powerful for A-B. They just got access to a market of 500 million active monthly users. If they can interest even 1% of them in their other franchises, they have made bank. Ie. CCS filters for them the sort of ppl that will respond well to MMO mechanics and reward systems (I describe that circumspectly). It will be amazing for them – a few special offers and they will hook a whole new cohort of gamers for WoW (not to mention the rest).

  26. Themadcow says:

    People spend silly money on mobile gaming. Hell, I sold one of my mobile game accounts for £800 last year to someone just because they wanted to stay competitive. Not quite sure Candy Crush (and the other King games) attract the same ‘whales’ as other games but 2.4bn revenue is pretty mental.

  27. Gothnak says:

    In the Free to Play market acquiring users is usually more expensive than games development. King has millions of users already acquired that already spend millions, Activision is mainly paying for this user base and guaranteed revenue rather than any game in particular.

  28. KayAU says:

    King.com may be worth a lot monetarily, but in terms of their contributions to video games, they are less than worthless. I would have settled for merely “worthless”, but their immoral attack on “The Banner Saga”, a creative and well made game from a real (but far less wealthy) developer, pushes them below the line.

    And now I associate Activision with them.

  29. dklafder says:

    Call of Candy: Modern Saga 2

  30. mukuste says:

    Shortly after the Windows 10 update I clicked on the Candy Crush icon, just out of curiosity what all the hubbub is about. The first thing that popped up was a huge scary “waive away your privacy” EULA that basically read “YOU ARE SELLING US YOUR SOUL SIGN HERE IN BLOOD”.

    I noped right out.

    Not really related to the article, but my only interaction with these King people so far.

  31. Press X to Gary Busey says:

    Activision: The ultimate microtransaction whale.

  32. Cross says:

    King is a particularly slimy one-trick pony. Hopefully, this deal will bite Activision in the ass so hard Bobby Kotick won’t be walking for days.

  33. ffordesoon says:

    I suspect this is a much savvier business move than anyone reading this article wants it to be, myself included. Candy Crush is garbage, but insanely popular and profitable garbage.

  34. OscarWilde1854 says:

    The fact that King has made more than 5$ as a whole is disgusting. They took a shitty game. Put microtransactions on it until it was essentially a play to pay system (not pay to play… you play to earn the right to pay in this one).. and then flung it all over social media. It’s success pretty much sums up what’s wrong with this generation. That anyone can enjoy and put SO much money into such mindless crap is completely absurd.

    • king0zymandias says:

      That’s a little unfair. It’s not a generational thing. The lowest common denominator has always been pretty goddamn low, in every generation.

  35. HERP DERP NANOMACHINES says:

    Wow, psychological manipulation sure is profitable!

    • manny says:

      I think it’s fair to say addictive mobile games like this are nothing more than slot machines. And should be considered part of the gambling industry. Just preying on people.

  36. Grovester says:

    Sell ATVI