King Digital Debuts IPO, Future Risks Foreseen

Candy CrushKing Digital, maker of the hugely popular “Candy Crush Saga” game, was hardly treated like royalty in its public trading debut.

The company’s stock priced late Tuesday at $22.50 a share, valuing the company at $7.1 billion. That was on the lower end of the expected range of $21 to $24 a share. But it opened today at $20.50 and had fallen quickly by more than 10% by midday to just over $20 a share.

King Digital had revenue of $1.8 billion in revenue last year, up more than 10 times the 2012 total of $164 million. It also posted a profit of $568 million. Propelling that gain was "Candy Crush," the free-to-play game that became a daily habit for some 93 million users globally.

King has also had success with other games such as “Pet Rescue Saga” and “Farm Heroes Saga,” but nothing on the level of "Candy Crush," which in the fourth quarter accounted for 78% of the company’s total gross bookings. That has led to questions about whether King can produce another breakout hit like "Candy Crush" to sustain strong growth.

In the risk factors section of its IPO filing, the company itself cautioned: “Our continued growth will depend on our ability to regularly develop new games and enhance our existing games in ways that improve the gaming experience for both paying and non-paying players, while encouraging the purchase of virtual items within our games.”

A revenue decline between the third and fourth quarters for King last year also drew investor concerns. The company’s weak market debut will likely lead to further comparisons with game developer Zynga, which also flopped in its market opening after months of hype.

The main advantage King has over Zynga is that it is already focused on mobile games, while the company behind “FarmVille” was slow to transition from the desktop to devices. Nevertheless, fears that King could end up as little more than a one-hit wonder may still be foremost in the minds of investors. 

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