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?