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For Candy Crush Soda, King blew 8 million dollars on hot air balloons that never flew

A funny story about an eye-watering waste of money for us, but a drop in the bucket for the mobile giant.

Candy Crush Soda baloon custom
Image credit: VG247 / King

All the way back in 2014, around the launch for Candy Crush Soda Saga, King spent roughly 8 million dollars on hot air balloons that never flew as part of its marketing efforts for the game.

This information comes from the GDC courtesy of Angus Lovitt, Co-Founder of Kohort ( a mobile game revenue forcast company) and former VP of marketing at King. During his talk at GDC titled 'You're probably wasting money on user aquisition', he spilled the beans on a funny anecdote in King's past.

The talk - which I must emphasize was a serious and really informative peek into the realities of video game marketing and its costs / pitfalls - started with this moment of levity. King, looking to promote the follow-up release of the ultra-popular Candy Crush Saga, reached out to an advertisement agency for ideas. The response; hot air balloons.

"I was like wow, mind blown. Blade Runner s*!t" stated Lovitt. The price of each balloon was 1.3 million each, to which Kovitt obviously responded with "I'll take three, thanks." During the talk Kovitt would go on to show pictures of three hot air balloons, parked inside a hanger, with video screens playing adverts attached to the balloon itself.

That apparently proved to be a problem, as it came to Kovitt's attention that these screens required batteries to play the ads, and since those batteries were too heavy for the hot air balloons to carry, the balloons could never fly. Following the talk, Lovitt would also explain that it cost $100,000 a year to store the balloons, and $100,000 to destroy them.

Now, this may sound like a lot of money. It is a lot of money! But Lovitt also revealed that the amount of money this hot air balloon fiasco cost made up just 1% of King's total marketing budget for the game. So, y'know, no harm no foul.

While this is in itself a funny little peek into the wild world of video game marketing, the talk itself delves into some interesting places. Kovitt stressed that that user aquisitions is important, but that you shouldn't always be forking out loads of cash. Instead, invest in analytics (something you'd expect to hear from an executive of a video game analytics company, obviously).

Kovitt also stressed his disdain for not spending agnostically, pausing spend to improve quarterly optics and secure bonuses (gross), and more. It's very dev-focused obviously so much of it may be a bit inside baseball, but if its something you're even vaguely interested in it's worth checking out in the GDC vault when its available.

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