How King stoked Candy Crush Saga fans with its All Stars tournament | interview


The best Candy Crush Saga players in the world recently converged on Los Angeles for a tournament.

The Candy Crush All Stars event featured a $1 million prize pool, with $500,000 designated for the tournament winner. Ben Parker Chin, 23, from Ohio came out with the top honors. Parker Chin beat out more than 15 million people who competed in the tournament.

The tournament brought together players from 21 countries in the same worldwide competition. Those players played 2.2 billion levels and they made 47 billion moves over two months. They collected 11.4 trillion All Stars candies, and they exploded 304 billion color bombs.

The final 10 went to compete on stage at an in-person event in Los Angeles. Brie Garcia hosted the event and she crowned Parker Chin as the winner. He also received a unique championship ring from Icebox, inspired by the Candy Crush All Stars candies. Suzanne Sundström, from Stockholm, Sweden, and Verissa Thomas, from Atlanta, finished second and third out of the group of finalists, taking home $250,000 and $100,000.


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The winner’s ring for the Candy Crush Saga All Stars tournament.

“I’m a huge fan of Candy Crush and have been playing for years, so it was an honor to be in the presence of greatness. The All Stars finalists are nothing short of athletes,” Garcia said in a statement. “I usually play while I’m traveling for work because it helps me relax and unwind, but the Live Final has really brought out my competitive side again. I had so much fun hosting the tournament and even learned a few tips and tricks to level up my gameplay. Maybe 2025 will be the year I take home the title myself.”

After entering the Candy Crush All Stars tournament in March, Parker Chin spent his time competing while recovering from surgery.

“It feels epic to say that I’m the ultimate All Stars champion of 2024. I started competing in the tournament while I was recovering from surgery, that’s when I had time to think about my moves and plan my strategy” Parker Chin said in a statement. “It’s been an unforgettable experience to compete alongside players who all share your passion for Candy Crush, being able to bond over that has been amazing and I’ve made friends for life.”

I did an interview about the tournament with Luken Aragon, head of marketing at 20-year-old King for Candy Crush Saga, to talk about the event and casual mobile gaming.

Aragon noted that the Candy Crush franchise has delivered more than $20 billion in revenue to date. The franchise games have had more than five billion downloads to date, and there are still more than 200 million monthly active users from all around the world playing King’s games. Candy Crush Saga itself has more than 16,000 levels.

Luken Aragon, head of marketing at King on Candy Crush Saga.

Luken Aragon: I’ve been at King for 10 years next week, in the consumer marketing organization. It’s been an amazing journey with Candy Crush. It’s a very important moment now for all of us this week. We’re running the Candy Crush All Stars final in L.A.

GamesBeat: Did you come in while Riccardo Zacconi was still there?

Aragon: Exactly, yes. I joined in 2014. Riccardo was part of my onboarding at King. I joined up focusing on CRM back in the day, engaging with players and trying to make sure everyone enjoying Candy was having fun. We’re here in L.A. now to run the final today, with the finalists who managed to go through the competition within the game. They’re competing here to find the best Candy Crusher. What’s interesting, we have a very big prize pool this year, $1 million, with $500,000 going to the winner. It’s creating a lot of excitement with our players. We met them yesterday. You see all the engagement. It’s a lot of fun.

All Stars is a very big event for Candy Crush. It’s being played in 21 countries, with 15 million people participating. We have some crazy numbers. We got to something like 2 billion levels played, 11 trillion candies collected. We’re very proud to be in Hollywood now and having these people competing for the number one position. On top of the prize pool, we have a special ring for the winner. It’s designed and created by Icebox.

GamesBeat: What are the goals of this kind of tournament? What different objectives do you have in doing this?

Ben Parker Chin, 24, of Ohio, celebrates his $500,000.

Aragon: It started four years ago with an observation and some feedback from our players. We interact a lot with our players, trying to understand what they like, what they don’t like. We observed that a lot of players saying that it would be great to play Candy Crush in a more competitive way. We tried to address that opportunity. We have an amazing game. Millions of players play Candy Crush every day. We started working on a pilot for All Stars in the U.K. to see if that translated into players engaging.

We worked very closely with product. It was a very strong collaboration between marketing and product. We crafted a new experience called All Stars, with the objective to play Candy Crush in a different way. Most people played Saga, the version of the game that everybody knows. All Stars became a serious alternative. After the first year we received so much positive feedback from players saying they loved it.

At that time there was no live final. It was purely rewards within the game. In year three, last year, that was the first time we introduced the prize pool and the concept of the live final. It was all about engaging and providing an alternative experience based on our players’ feedback.

GamesBeat: Did you ever think of it as an esport, or do you see it in a different way?

Aragon: All Stars is a competitive way of playing Candy Crush. We’re learning by doing here. We’re trying to continuously listen to the players’ feedback. I don’t know if the term “esports” applies to Candy Crush, but we’re certainly very proud to do something that is unique in the casual mobile games industry. We’re trying to bring some esports DNA into a casual experience. We’ll be continuously thinking about how this can evolve. We like this kind of competitive approach and we’ll continue to interact with our players to see how we can evolve the experience.

Brie Garcia hosted the Candy Crush Saga All Stars event.

GamesBeat: Was it easy, or more difficult to set this up in a way that works for King?

Aragon: Everything starts with our interaction with the players. Listening and collecting feedback about their needs was at the root of what we wanted to do. The approach was to create an experience that’s simple, that could enhance engagement with our players. We wanted everyone to be able to enjoy All Stars. Most of the effort was working with product to create an accessible way to compete. How could we make sure most of our players could enjoy it? We didn’t want to create something too complex.

Most of our players–some of them may have experienced more competitive games on mobile and console and so on. But I suspect that the vast majority have never engaged with an esports experience. We tried to find the right positioning between competition, but also making it simple. We’ve been working with product on that year after year. After four years, we’ve managed to keep the essence of what a competitive experience could be, but also making it extremely easy to play.

GamesBeat: How many people came to L.A. to participate? How did you organize the in-person event?

Aragon: In the consumer marketing organization we have people dedicated to running the event. We’ve also partnered with experts in managing events, which is something we’ve been developing quite a lot recently. I don’t know if you saw the Mighty Hoopla festival a year and a half ago, but we have partnerships with people who have expertise in that area to take Candy Crush from mobile into the outside world, creating these types of live experiences. Consumer marketing has coordinated with experts who know how to run this type of show.

We’ve welcomed the finalists. We had a chat with them. It was really refreshing to see how engaged and committed they are with our product and our brand. It took us quite a few months to build up to this, but ultimately we’re very happy with the results.

The live finals event for the Candy Crush tournament.

What we’re trying to achieve here is reach the same level of intensity and passion within the event. What makes an esports event is the emotion. That’s a core part of the DNA in esports, and it’s something we want to bring to Candy Crush. It’s combining the fun of the Candy Crush world environment to the greater intensity of competition. We’ll get to the finals, two players competing for number one. We want to translate what makes an esports event fun – that intense passion, people watching the event trying to guess who’ll win – and apply that to Candy Crush.

It’s not an event with thousands of players attending a live game. We don’t have an audience attending, spectators. But the experience itself is very similar to what you’d have at any other esports event in intensity. Again, applied to Candy Crush. It’s a different product from most of what you see in esports experiences. We just want to bring that essence of what competition can be to our product.

GamesBeat: It seems like the kind of event where a lot of observers don’t realize how big the user base is, how many fans are behind it. The people playing and watching wouldn’t necessarily consider themselves esports fans.

Aragon: Exactly. Our players might not consider themselves esports fans, but they’re competitors. What we’re trying to do with All Stars, and trying very hard, is listen to our players. A lot of them have told us they’re interested in competition. It would have been a mistake to translate what esports is on console and PC into Candy Crush. Just trying to mimic something. What we’re trying to do is imagine what makes Candy Crush a strong experience and then inject that competitive part. That’s how we created All Stars, which ultimately something very different from an esports event. But it keeps the essence of what a competitive event can be.

As you say, most of our players probably never expected they would be in this room now competing for such a big prize pool. It’s fun seeing them have this amazing moment. They’re proud to be here, and we’re very proud to see how we’re able to delight our players. Our mission is still to make the world playful. All Stars is a great way for us to demonstrate that.

GamesBeat: What kind of person do you think is the most likely to win?

King gave away $1 million in its latest Candy Crush tournament.

Aragon: We have some very talented players. Two of them made the finals last year. They’re definitely more skilled than I am at playing Candy. You see the way they analyze the board is very different. I’m very keen to see the finals and how they play there, when they’re on the full screen. Most likely the moves they make are very different from the moves that I would make.

If there’s 50 million people that have entered, and two of them have made the finals two years in a row, that’s a pretty crazy number to think about. The gender balance is pretty equally split, too, between men and women. It’s interesting to see a competitive spirit come out in everyone.

We’re creating a lot of content with the players. They’re very proud to be here. We’ll have photos and interviews. We did that last year with all the players that participated, and we’ll definitely replicate that content creation. It’s one of the best ways for us to capture that passion for our players.

GamesBeat: We’ve seen some multi-game esports events, like the Esports World Cup that’s starting in Saudi Arabia now. Is that kind of thing interesting to you, being part of a larger competition?

Candy Crush Saga has more than 200 million users.

Aragon: Our perspective on All Stars, it’s a learn-by-doing approach. It’s critical for us to listen to our players and understand what we might want to do differently, what we can do better, what they enjoy. I can’t say what will happen in the future in the way of esports and big competitions. However, my job as a marketing person is always to explore opportunities that could help us satisfy our players.

Is esports an option, this type of event? Currently I don’t know. We’re deeply focused right now on making sure All Stars is a successful event. But for sure, we keep a close eye on how the industry is evolving and what players are looking for. If that’s an option players are keen to see us explore, why not?

This is a massive evolution of what Candy Crush is. We’re always trying to ideate and create experiences that can satisfy our players. We’re very excited, very happy and proud of what we’re doing here. We’ll keep working hard to create these kinds of experiences in the future and deliver to our players things they might not expect, but that we know they’ll enjoy.