Why I’m over Candy Crush

Apparently, Candy Crush is the most popular game on Facebook, with 9.7m people playing the game each day.

I’m not surprised – I keep seeing mentions among bloggers of the game, and every time I log into Facebook, I’m accosted by half a dozen updates from friends who are inviting me to play.

So, for a couple of weeks, I added the game, and played.

I can see what people like about Candy Crush. It’s cute, and simple to understand, and accessible. It’s social, too – you can gloat as you pass friends, or ask for and give lives to friends who also play the game.

But last week, I uninstalled the game. And I’ve no intention of adding it back.

I’ll admit at first I was completely sucked in to Candy Crush. The early levels are easy and yes, it’s a bit spammy the way the game constantly wants you to ask friends for help to access new levels, but if those friends are playing the game too, then what’s the problem?

Then I started to see Tweets from friends who were stuck on the same level for day after day, and week after week. That didn’t seem right for an online puzzle.

As I progressed through the levels though, I think I spotted the reason – often when a level launches, it often becomes apparent within the first two or three moves whether or not the puzzle can be solved. And it seems that the further you go in the game, the less likely you are to be presented with a puzzle that can be solved. The solution to the puzzle almost always relies on chance. You remove some candy and hope that the right formation of blocks falls into place. And it usually doesn’t. But when it does, the puzzle can be solved.

Then I saw a Tweet from a Candy Crush player who Tweeted a screenshot of a completed level with the words, “Who cares if I have to buy two boosters? I did it.” 

And that’s when it hit me. Isn’t Candy Crush a lot like a big, virtual slot machine?

It’s highly addictive, relies almost entirely on chance rather than skill, and continuously encourages the user to put in small amounts of money that can quickly add up to big amounts of money. After all, it’s “only” a pound or two, right?

The issue of whether social gaming should be classed as gambling is one that’s being seriously discussed in the US, and I wonder if we’re going to see an increasing tide of stories about people losing more time and money than they can afford to social games.

You don’t HAVE to spend cash to play Candy Crush. But boy do the developers make it easy. On Facebook, the button to ‘try again’ when you fail a level is in exactly the same place as the ‘buy now’ button that also sometimes flashes up at the end of a level. I very quickly lost count of how many times I accidentally brought up the box inviting me to buy 1, 5 or 10 credits. I don’t see this kind of design built into other online games I play, such as Zynga’s Words With Friends.

I guess there are lots of people who don’t spend money on virtual games. Or maybe they do spend money and it seems like good value for money when measured against the entertainment of the game. Kellie over at Big Fashionista has written a fab post today about Candy Crush arguing it should be taught in schools.

But for me? I started to feel a bit like a lab rat in front of a virtual fruit machine, being fed regular hits of dopamine to keep me hooked.

What do you reckon? Are you a Candy Crush addict?  Have you ever spent money on online games?


Photo Credit: cloud2013 via Compfight cc


Sally is a full-time blogger and founder of the Tots100, Trips100, Foodies100 and HIBS100 communities, along with the MAD Blog Awards. She spends a bit too much time on the Internet. She’s also a very happy Mum to Flea, the world’s coolest ten year old.

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  1. 24th April 2013 / 10:04 pm

    I don’t do any of these games. WWF is great but anything where you have to buy stuff to get on annoys me. The closest we come to it in our house is DrawSomething, SongPop (and I just earn points instead) and Simpsons Tapped Out which my OH and 8yo both play. They could buy stuff but they don’t and earn it instead. Purchases have to be approved on both my ipad and OH’s tablet so the children can’t. I hate all these in app purchase things, they are way too easy to do almost accidentally. I know how easy it is to click on the wrong thing on a tablet.
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    • 25th April 2013 / 8:14 am

      Yes, I’ve turned off in-app purchases on all my devices – but Flea’s Dad wasn’t so quick and got stuck with a hefty bill when Flea first played a game on his device!

  2. 24th April 2013 / 10:09 pm

    I play a lot of games. Some are free. Some require a monthly subscription, and some offer in-game purchases. In principle I don’t object to any method of funding a game – I appreciate they’re not free to make and the developers have to pay the mortgage somehow…

    I have tried Candy Crush Saga, but deleted it quickly. It wasn’t the in-app purchases that bothered me, it was the completely random and hard nature of the game. There are a number of similar games around (Bubble Witch Saga was the one that everyone seemed to be playing before Candy Crush came along) which seem to be designed to blend a random element with being just that slightly bit too hard and therefore pushing people towards in app purchases. I won’t play any game where I HAVE to make in-game purchases to play and progress.

    Now, Dragonvale on the other hand… 🙂
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    • 25th April 2013 / 8:14 am

      I agree 100% – I’m happy to pay money to play games, or buy games – but with CC, I think I just got so frustrated because it seemed money-grabbing to set impossible puzzles that tempt you into spending money to solve the puzzle.

  3. 24th April 2013 / 10:14 pm

    As soon as I saw it had a national television ad campaign I was suspicious of the game.
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    • 25th April 2013 / 8:15 am

      Well, quite. I saw that the other night – how bizarre!

  4. TheBoyandMe
    25th April 2013 / 12:03 am

    Oh wow. I’m currently a bit flummoxed. Mainly because I think that the person you’ve quoted is me. I play the game, I’ve bought occasional boosters and yes I suppose it is gambling. I don’t drink or smoke, we don’t go out and yes I’m aware that I’m justifying my actions, but so what? I’m an educated and intelligent person who can keep track of an occasional 69p for a game which I enjoy.

    • 25th April 2013 / 8:15 am

      Oh, I’m not sure it was you – I’ve seen a few people Tweet similar things (2 already this morning) but as I say – for some people it’s good value for money because it’s a fun game they enjoy playing and it’s worth the few pounds a month they might spend. There’s nothing wrong with gambling if you’re enjoying it and you’re in control! But for me, personally, once I saw it as gambling, I wasn’t so keen.

  5. 25th April 2013 / 2:22 am

    Im sick and tired of it popping up on facebook and tv. Ive never downloaded it and dont intend to. However if other people want to play it thays fine by me, just stop sending me invitations
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    • 25th April 2013 / 8:16 am

      Oh it definitely is spammy. And now I’ve uninstalled it, it’s no better because I still keep getting game invites!

  6. 25th April 2013 / 7:03 am

    I don’t play any of these games online. I’m addicted enough to facebook and blogging without adding extra internet time-wasting to my life. When I want to relax I play spider solitaire which is hard enough if you play with all four suits. I think I’ve won only 7 in over 300 games. Hearts is good too and more chance of winning. And no extra cost of course.
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    • 25th April 2013 / 8:16 am

      Cards are good. I love online games like Words With Friends, although my Mum regularly kicks my behind.

  7. 25th April 2013 / 8:28 am

    Thanks for the mention.

    Excellent post and I agree with what you are saying here.

    • 25th April 2013 / 9:08 pm

      But it also an excellent learning tool 😉

  8. 25th April 2013 / 8:48 am

    I play but I don’t pay!!
    I have got all the way to level 325 without buying any of the extra help boosters!!
    I would never pay for a game on Facebook….I have better things to spend my money on 🙂

    • 25th April 2013 / 9:09 pm

      That’s just showing off.

      Seriously, I get it can be done eventually but you’re relying a lot on luck so it takes SO much time and I just don’t have it to spare. Also, I get cranky…

  9. 25th April 2013 / 9:29 am

    It certainly makes an interesting comparison.

    I’d realised quite early on that there was very little skill in the game, and pestering other people to advance really bothered me. I only got to about level 50 before I stopped asking. Instead for the last week or so I’ve just been going back over old levels trying to get the highest score, as that generally allowed me to play without the constant social prompts.

    I think the link between online gaming and gambling is an interesting one. I don’t think it had registered because there is no potential to win money back. Obviously it’s the promise of winning all your money back, that brings out the worst effects of gambling. No one is going to think they can reclaim all they’ve spent if they just win this level of Candy Crush.

    On the other hand I suspect these games still cause hardships. I’m sure there are plenty of families on tight budgets that are accidentally hit with big bills or tempted to overspend with these small in app purchases. I think I’m tempted to say this is a problem with the in app purchase system rather than the game itself – though how the in app purchases are encouraged obviously makes some difference.

    I think I’m going to have to consider this more. There are several reasons we take a stand against gambling – including lotteries and raffles – but I’m not sure this is really the same thing.
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    • 25th April 2013 / 9:10 pm

      I think the discussion in the US centres on the idea that virtual currency from social games is being bought and sold so there is a value to the prize. And I think there’s a real compulsive element to the way it encourages continued play and continued spending. It’s quite worrying to me, I think, because I do think there will be families experiencing hardship because of these games. I know it’s not exactly the same as gambling for money, I just find it didn’t sit easily with me.

  10. 25th April 2013 / 10:15 am

    Totally agree – also very concerned that some of the games directed at children have really easy (especially if your child isn’t reading confidently) buttons to click to buy add ins (and yes I know you should lock the store but accidents happen) – Disney especially I am looking at you

    WWF is a great game and proves you can do well without making it about luck and throwing micro-money at things (pennies add up so quickly)

    Not the right thing in this economic climate not at all
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    • 25th April 2013 / 9:11 pm

      Oh, the in-app thing is so easy to get caught out on. It’s not always very clear they’re asking for money. Flea always comes and checks but once or twice has been worried she might have spent money without realising it (although I’ve got IAPs turned off, I know accidents still happen!)

  11. purplemum
    25th April 2013 / 4:02 pm

    I installed it because I was curious, and I do love a bandwagon. I have to say I didn’t see the appeal, but then I’m not much of a gamer. Then a conversation with a friend led to me discovering that you can buy extra lives etc. Obviously this then is, like you said, a massive cash cow for the producers and gambling for me. I uninstalled it. Now though I get updates on Facebook from friends requesting Candy Crush stuff. I nearly made a public announcement regarding not doing it anymore to shut it all up.

    • 25th April 2013 / 9:12 pm

      Yes, I think the developers must be making a fortune and I just don’t like the way it’s done – I’d feel differently if it was a monthly subscription to access a game, but one that continuously asks for small amounts this way feels like it could spiral – for me, at least. I know lots of others feel a bit differently about it.

    • 25th April 2013 / 9:12 pm

      If nothing else, it’s the most horrible sucker-up of time!

  12. Pinkoddy
    26th April 2013 / 10:19 am

    I have only recently started candy crush as I felt very left out lol. I would never put money in but agree how easy it is. And let’s face it children as young as 13 are *allowed* on Facebook.

    I had a bad family experience with gambling so know too well the negative effects.

  13. Stephanie
    27th April 2013 / 1:03 pm

    I steer clear of on line games. Facebook and Twitter are addictive enough as it is. I am dreading my children being old enough for these games, the teenagers I know are totally addicted to things like this!

  14. 1st May 2013 / 9:57 pm

    That’s a very good point! I’m a gamer, mostly of the Guild Wars 2 variety – but when I tried it it left me cold. Sounds like I got lucky!
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  15. 2nd May 2013 / 12:17 pm

    I love this post Sally- I got sucked into Candy Crush and actually bought another set of lives once because I couldn’t wait another few hours to get some more. Then I realised that I was on a slippery slope! Plus I really do believe that there is no strategy involved in it at all- it is purely down to chance. Uninstalled. 😉
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  16. Mrs Teepot
    2nd May 2013 / 3:56 pm

    I quite enjoy Candy Crush but I’d never spend money on it and I’m certainly not addicted like a lot of people seem to be.

  17. Artemis
    9th June 2013 / 5:40 am

    I’m definitely not a fan of the type of structure exhibited in this and other types of games, that essentially exploit the human brain’s reward system, eventually trying to make things difficult/slow enough that people are willing to pay money to achieve a reward.

    That being said, the claim that this particular game is gambling, with reference to the linked article, seems… misplaced; Candy Crush has no exchangeable reward, whereas the style of game referenced in the article has a prize (such as in-game currency/items) which necessarily has no real cash value. Even if the social gaming the article discusses were classified as gambling, this game would not.

    Also, I’ve made it to level 325 without paying (and won’t pay, ever), so I don’t really think it’s fair to call the levels impossible. There were very few which tripped me up for more than a couple tries with a decent strategy in mind.

  18. Debbie Hercock
    9th July 2013 / 9:23 pm

    I disagree that it’s gambling. Obviously developers will always look to make extra money out of their software, but the fact is you can play without buying boosters and lives. In fact I view it as cheating in the game. It would give me no level of achievement if I only passed a level because I bought extra boosters or moves. I’m at level 276 and although it was hard I just loved having the challenge. I disagree it’s pure luck, there is a lot of strategy involved as well. if you don’t use any strategy you won’t pass the harder levels.

  19. 25th July 2013 / 7:10 pm

    I go in fits and starts of this game…I often find if I don’t play for weeks, suddenly I can pass a level that I’ve been stuck on for weeks previous in only one or two goes.

    I started playing Candy Crush aaaaages ago. None of my friends played it and now it seems to be the game of the moment.

    I have bought boosters in the past, but that’s if I get really, really stuck and frustrated, or if I’m left with one last thing to do and need that extra – especially if it’s a level I’ve been stuck on for a while. However, I have managed, by and large to get by without buying boosters.

    It is strange that whilst looking for a strategy to try and pass level 325 I came across and read this blog post!

    I have been playing online games for a long time, and regular computer games for as long as I can remember. I don’t mind paying for them – for boosters, or add ons or whatever. I don’t understand this mentality from people who say “oh I’ll never pay to play” like its an awful thing or something. To me, it is a form of entertainment, so instead of spending a fiver on something, like say a coffee and a cake, I’ll spend it on a game…

    I don’t see this game as gambling personally. I think if people have a problem with online spending in a game, then it is probably time to step away from it.
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