reveals the secret story behind the numbers (Wired UK)

WIRED 2015 is our annual two-day celebration of the innovators, inventors, artists and entrepreneurs who are reinventing our world. For more from the event, head over to our WIRED 2015 hub.

A lot of people talk about is in terms of numbers, admits co-founder and chief operating officer Stephane Kurgan, whether that’s its recent disastrous IPO, the number of downloads of Candy Crush Saga, its numbers of players, its founders and how much they are worth, or how much cash it has in the bank.

But what’s behind the numbers?

Stephane Kurgan
Stephane Kurgan game builder

Vincent Whiteman WIRED

At WIRED 2015 Kurgan gave a glimpse into what he said was the real story of, and what the numbers behind the headlines actually mean.

5: founders

“They’re still there,” Kurgan told WIRED 2015 proudly of’s founders — all except, famously, the one who left before having the chance to earn hundreds of millions of dollars from his shares. Those that are left include CTO Thomas Hartwig and CEO Riccardo Zacconi, and Kurgan himself. “They are [also] all quite old,” Kurgan admitted. “We believe some of the reasons why the company has been a success is that they are all quite old […] they all have tire tracks on their backs.” was formed in 2003 purely as a web-based tournament website, Kurgan explained. Then Facebook came along and threw the business into turmoil, until Candy Crush (and mobile gaming) came along in turn, and the gaming company grew to a different level and was able to find a home, even on Facebook itself. That history of success and failure is why the company persists, he said.

200: IPs developed

“There is often the impression […] that is two guys in a garage and success came overnight. That’s just not true,” Kurgan said. “There is just a huge amount of work and passion behind this. It took [our founders] seven years to find Candy Crush, the first version was launched on the web in 2010.” And no, it isn’t a one hit company. Farm Heroes, one of its lesser known games, is bigger than most gaming companies Kurgan said.

Stephane Kurgan
Stephane Kurgan game builder

Vincent Whiteman WIRED

12: studios.

At first had one studio. Back then things were simpler, Kurgan admitted. As soon as you have more than one, it gets more difficult. “We started opening in Bucharest, London, Barcelona and we went through a wrenching time,” he added. “The company went through a transformation.” Now it has 12.

15 billion: daily events on servers

“We can run nine million concurrent users at one time,” Kurgan said. “This is the hardest thing we do. It remains incredibly hard. We have some of our strongest and brightest people working on this […] there is no magic to big data it is just extremely hard work.”

56,000: job applicants in 2014

Hiring is “the most important thing you can do” Kurgan said. “We peaked at hiring 98 people in a month” — or 12.5 percent — Kurgan said. If you get that wrong it takes “months and quarters to resolve”. To get a job at you need to meet six people at the very least, including one “cross functional” interview with someone from another part of the business. “The other thing that is less common and not very politically correct, is that if you are in doubt you should not hire, if you make the wrong hire in a company that is scaling very fast the time and energy and focus you have to put in [fixing it] is greater,” he said. “Even one person wrong, the damage might be extreme.”

Stephane Kurgan
Stephane Kurgan game builder

Vincent Whiteman WIRED

Five (again): key pillars of business

Art, craft, science, technology and marketing. Without any of these your business probably won’t succeed Kurgan said. “We are a games company before anything else,” he explained. You also need to balance your game, analyse it and the response to your work properly, ensure it is built with scalable technology and is underpinned by a marketing strategy focused on return-on-investment — essentially making sure the game pays the bills.

$500,000,000’s 2014 IPO was the largest ever for a European tech company. “It was also indeed the worst large IPO of the last 20 years,” according to Kurgan. “At the end of the day we ended 17 percent below the introductory price. If we had a culture about let’s get to the IPO and that’s the end of the journey I wouldn’t be here with you today.” That culture allowed to “keep going” he said, to launch new games, “and we keep going strongly today”.

44 percent

That is the unprompted brand recognition of Candy Crush in the US. “It has become an incredibly strong consumer brand” Kurgan said. “One of the largest in the US and indeed the rest of the world.” The aim is for the brand to still be “fresh” in 25 years.

340 million: players

That’s the number of people who play games each other. “Whatever we do we do it with quality,” he said. “That is also a huge responsibility […] it’s an incredible privilege.”

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16 October 2015 | 6:59 pm – Source:


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