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Key factors behind Candy Crush Saga costExperts often call Candy Crush Saga the most unlikely hit. It’s a classic Match-3 game that requires players to form lines of identical elements – in this case, sweets. Candy Crush employs classic social marketing strategies encouraging users to promote the app through social media, make in-app purchases and upgrade to new levels. However, the simple puzzle had remained the biggest US game (20 million daily users) until Pokémon GO was released and generated over $1.5 billion in revenue. Back in 2016 we published an informative article covering the key factors behind mobile gave dev costs. Although you can’t build an AAA-class game for less than $50 thousand, aspiring app entrepreneurs believe casual games cost literally nothing.
Here’s where they’re wrong.As you know, there are several ways to monetize a mobile game. These include in-app purchases, one-time upfront payments and advertising. In a world where all of the US top grossing mobile games are downloaded for free, you can’t just put a price tag on your app and call it a day.
Taking the free-to-play (and pay-to-win!) approach is basically your only chance to make money on a casual game. As a matter of fact, the average US user spent $87 on in-app purchases last year.As a game developer, you should create beautiful layouts and an original gameplay to attract and engage users. According to Pavel Shylenok, CTO at R-Style Lab, 80% of the average $100 thousand game dev budget is actually spent on making the game look and feel great. Pavel also compares game dev to film production as your budget depends on how much you’re willing to spend (and there’s no upper limit).
Candy Crush cost breakdownThe price of building a mobile app depends on several factors including the country you’re hiring developers from, size of a company and type of an application. Here and below, we’re going to estimate the cost of developing certain Candy Crush clone components based on the average Eastern European developer hourly rates. If you consider working with a US/EU-based vendor, the price will multiply threefold (at the very minimum).
Graphic contentOk, how much did it cost to make the viral Candy Crush game? Simple as it is, Candy Crush features multiple levels and types of candies (wrapped, striped, rainbow, etc.). You need at least 5 different game artifacts – and they should be animated. Each 2D artefact should consist of at least 30 frames; otherwise the animations will look blurry. Now multiply 5 artefacts by 5 colors, 30 frames and 5 animations. That’s over 2 thousand images for only one field!
Although there are techniques enabling vendors to reduce the number of game assets, they are applied on per-project basis.
Here’s how much you will spend on game graphics:
- Playing field. A casual game like Candy Crush features about 9 thousand animated objects including animated level backgrounds and bonuses (boosters and charms enabling users to unlock further gameplay).
- Game Map. Depending on your game’s settings, you’ll need 400 animated objects and backgrounds.
- Game menus, screens and HUD. Candy Crush has over 50 animated controls and simple, yet varied screens.
- Particle effects. In order to enhance motion graphics, you’ll have to design at least 15 different particle effects supporting in-game actions.
Don’t forget about the sketches and concepts of the features mentioned above (100 drawings). In the end, graphic content will cost you anything between $40-60 thousand.
SoundtrackRecent studies show that music (provided it complements the gameplay) can significantly improve players’ performance. Since all popular mobile games have soundtracks these days, you have to keep up with the competitors. For a Match-3 game like Candy Crush, you’ll need:
- One menu track.
- At least 6 tracks assigned to different game levels.
- 30 in-game sound effects (clicks, taps, game over/win sounds).
The approximate cost of a game soundtrack is $8-10 thousand. You can reduce the expenses by using royalty-free music.
The scope of building a casual mobile game includes:
- Gameplay logic (authentic assessment, pathfinding, agent behavior, AI-powered processes and game conditions).
- Game menu development (a UI that provides access to other in-game features).
- Social features development (the integration with popular social networks, gifting, option to invite friends, leaderboard design, events and multi-player game sessions).
- Monetization logic development (in-app currency and level upgrades).
- User analytics (ways to collect quantitative data on user activities).
A team of Eastern Europe-based developers, UX/UI designers and QA engineers will charge $40-50 thousand for the work.
MarketingInspired by “viral success” stories, newcomers don’t invest in app marketing, get 500 app downloads a day and soon go out of business. They somehow forget that virality is also created by marketers – and that’s why you need a solid marketing budget to propel your Candy Crush clone to the top of the App Store and Google Play charts. Judging from his vast game development experience, Pavel Shylenok says the average marketing budget comprises 80% of the entire game costs (although you can certainly reduce marketing expenses by taking a few lessons from King). King, the company that created Candy Crush and was acquired by Activision Blizzard for $5.9 billion, went the extra mile to win users across multiple platforms including social networks and mobile devices:
- They launched their game on Facebook first and restricted its usage by giving players five lives at a time. Once you spent the precious asset, you had to wait for 30 minutes to continue with the game.
- King prospered on players’ love for simple things (that’s why primitive swiping games like Crossy Road and Alto’s Adventure enjoy commercial success).
- Candy Crush heavily relies on social features (including automatic prompts enabling players to share their achievements on Facebook and ask friends for help).
- The company continuously analyses user feedback, rewards players and releases new game levels every two weeks.