What Game Slowdown on Facebook? King.com Shooting for IPO Sometime Next Year.

Depending on the day, King.com is the second-largest social games company on Facebook, roughly the same size as Electronic Arts and a quarter of the size of Zynga.

At that scale, CEO Riccardo Zacconi believes the London-based company is fit to wear the crown of a public company.

Never mind concerns about Facebook as a game platform, or that Zynga’s stock has fallen 70 percent since its public offering eight months ago.

During an interview at Casual Connect last week in Seattle, Zacconi confirmed that King.com is planning to go public next year on the Nasdaq stock exchange.

“We have not kickstarted the IPO yet,” he said, but “we are thinking about it. We first have to execute and then the rest is easy.

“This year is focused entirely on execution. From the management perspective, we have to think long-term, and if we do our job properly, and we put a couple of ticks in a couple of boxes, such as social and mobile, then we have the option next year if we decide to go for an IPO.”

Just last year, King.com started making it first games for Facebook after spending the eight previous years building its own game portal at King.com. The company’s games fall into the bubble-shooter category, including Bubble Witch Saga, and, more recently, Candy Crush Saga. When they first hit Facebook, they were nearly overnight hits, and still attract tens of millions of players every month.

During the past year, Zacconi said traffic has grown from 300 million game plays a month to three billion.

The company last raised capital in September 2005, securing $50 million in cash, but he said King has not spent a dime, having achieved profitability at around the same time. Today, it has 230 employees, and has plans to hire another 100 by the end of the year.

Zacconi would not discuss the company’s financials or how they compare to Zynga, but by the company’s headcount alone, King.com sounds much smaller than Zynga.

At the end of the second quarter, Zynga had a force of more than 3,200 coders and other people to make it the industry leader.

“The biggest hindrance for growing faster is people,” Zacconi admits, but he says he doesn’t require thousands of employees in order to be successful. He said today King has about eight people working on each game, despite at least two games being bigger than Zynga’s FarmVille. Keeping headcount low is a lesson Zacconi learned from running the company’s game portal.

“If you spend so much money on a game, and spend two years to develop it, then you can’t experiment. It is pretty bad news if it doesn’t go well. If you develop a game with three people in three months, and it doesn’t go well, that’s fine,” he said.

For the company’s next stage of growth, it is focused on bringing all six of its Facebook games to mobile.

Last Thursday, it launched Bubble Witch Saga, it’s first on iPhone and iPad. The game, which draws more than four million daily active users on Facebook, will fully sync across mobile and social, allowing players to save their scores, progress and virtual goods on one platform, and pick up exactly where they left off on the another device. Such synchronicity is still rare across mobile and social.

By 10 am on Day One, the game was ranked 28th in the U.S. and in the top five in Italy, the U.K. and France. It has a 4.5 star average rating with more than 1,000 ratings.

While Zacconi is excited about the company’s prospects on mobile, he admits it is difficult to get discovered on the iOS platform. To help with that he plans to rely heavily on Facebook for distribution. Facebook users will be able to discover the game through the iPhone or iPad Facebook application. If they play it online, it will appear in the app’s left-hand navigation, or through notifications. If a user clicks on the game inside of the Facebook app or on a notification, they will be sent to the iOS App Store, where they can download the native version of the game — if they haven’t already.

He said customers are saying they also want to play their games on mobile. “Strategically, it’s important to have a strong position on canvas in order to have a strong position on mobile,” he said.

It’s a strategy that Zynga is also taking, and if King can figure it out first, then perhaps the public markets will see value there, too.


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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik