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Associated Press
King Digital Entertainment PLC, maker of the popular “Candy Crush Saga,” is planning an IPO of its common stock.

Candy game creator King pursues IPO

– The company behind “Candy Crush Saga” is going public, hoping the popularity of its addictive online game will translate to sweet returns for itself and its investors.

King Digital Entertainment PLC, which also makes lesser-known games such as “Bubble Witch Saga” and “Pet Rescue Saga,” did not disclose how many shares it expects to offer in the IPO or a projected price range for the stock.

In papers filed Tuesday with the Securities and Exchange Commission, the company said it hopes to raise as much as $500 million in the offering. The amount could change in the coming weeks as the company and the IPO’s underwriting banks gauge investor demand.

“Candy Crush” was the most downloaded free app on iPhones and iPads in 2013, beating Facebook, Google Maps and YouTube. The game’s success helped King replace Zynga Inc. – maker of “FarmVille” and “Mafia Wars”– as the No. 1 producer of games played on Facebook.

King is five years older than San Francisco’s Zynga, and thanks largely to in-app purchases people make while playing “Candy Crush,” the company generated 2013 revenue of $1.88 billion, more than 10 times its 2012 revenue of $164.4 million. Zynga’s 2013 revenue, meanwhile, was $873.3 million, down from $1.28 billion in 2012.

“They are two different kinds of game companies, with ‘Candy’ being a bit more mobile centric,” Gartner analyst Brian Blau said. They also take different approaches to game development, he added. Zynga analyzes how its games are played to try to make the games better, more addictive and more lucrative once they are already out, while King tests its titles “for a very, very long time” before releasing them to the public, Blau said.

“Candy Crush,” which involves matching rows of bright-hued virtual candies to make them disappear, is successful by any measure. There were 93 million users playing the game every day in December, according to King’s regulatory filing. If King isn’t a household name, “Candy Crush” certainly is. “Candy Crush” is free to play, but users spend money on extra items to boost gameplay.