riccardo zacconi

In February 2011, King.com seemed like it had been passed up in the gaming innovation race. It had 150 casual tournament games on the web but had only just begun to release those titles on Facebook, where Zynga dominated social games. Now, King.com is the No. 2 social gamemaker on Facebook with 48.5 million monthly active users.

candy crush sagaFor its next act, King.com is focused on mobile. Today, the company is launching its Candy Crush Saga game on iOS (iPhone, iPad, iPad mini, and iPod Touch). The hope is that the same match-three, short-duration game will be as popular on mobile as it is on Facebook, where the game has five million daily active players.

Full told, gamers play more than three billion King.com game sessions a month. Riccardo Zacconi, the chief executive of London-based King.com, said the move is part of the company’s push to make its games available on all platforms and territories. King.com, which is big in Europe, is in the midst of a big expansion in the U.S., and it will also be expanded in Asia, Zacconi.

“We’ve got a play-everywhere strategy,” said Zacconi (pictured).

Sean Ryan, the director of games partnerships at Facebook, recently pointed to King.com as proof that a diverse group of companies is finding success on Facebook. King.com is also tapping Facebook’s mobile app to make it easier to discover its games on mobile platforms. Facebook is good for game discovery because it shows a player what his or her friends are playing on mobile devices.

Candy Crush Saga will have complete synchronization with Facebook, keeping player’s leaderboards, scores, progress, and virtual goods seamless across both platforms. In the game, you match different types of candy so that you can get three in a row. The title will have more than 125 levels and modes where gamers can test their skills against a timer. The mobile game will let you start on a computer and then pick up the game in the same place on the iPhone. Candy Crush Saga joins Bubble Witch Saga, a web and social game that has also become a hit on mobile.

King.com isn’t abandoning Facebook, though. The company is also launching a new game, Pet Rescue Saga, on Facebook. Most of King.com’s games have been hits on Facebook, but not every title is. King.com uses the web to test hundreds of titles with users. Those that take off are moved over to Facebook, and now they will be adapted to mobile pet rescue sagaas well, said Zacconi. Eventually, King.com will expand to Google Android devices. But for now, it is “wait and see” on Windows Phone 8, said Zacconi.

The rapid growth on Facebook has enabled King.com to hire a lot more people. At the beginning of 2011, it had 110 employees. Now, it has more than 300 and is expecting to expand to about 400 by the end of 2013. The company has six game studios, each of which makes games for social, mobile, and the web.

The Pet Rescue Saga game will have 50 levels. Like other King.com games, it will share common features for leaderboards and sharing. Zacconi said the company saves on development costs by creating a core platform that every game uses for features such as multiplayer.

The long-term question is whether or not King.com can stay on top of the trends. Facebook users have proved to be fickle. They once embraced casual simulation games like FarmVille, and they still do to some degree. But the diversity of popular genres is spreading out. Social casino games have blossomed and so have sports betting games and hidden object games.

But Zacconi said that King.com won’t clone games and chase others into new categories. Rather, his company focuses on innovation.

“We don’t like to play catch-up,” he said. “When we started on Facebook, we were told the game was over. But we have innovated. Our games are hit-driven, and we have to continuously replenish them.”

[Photo credit: Dean Takahashi]