Candy Crush Represents Everything That's Wrong with Mobile Gaming

Candy Crush is designed for one thing and one thing only: separating you from your money.


Candy Crush is a hugely popular game, both on Facebook and mobile. As a game, it's well made, challenging, and rewarding to play. On the surface, it does its job perfectly. But when you start to dig a little deeper, it becomes clear that the game is not so much a game as it is a carefully masked system designed to siphon as much money as it can from your bank account.

Yes, Candy Crush is technically a free game (meaning you don't have to pay to install it). But at the time of this writing, it is among the top 5 grossing games on the iOS app store. That's because...

Candy Crush is a Shakedown

There is no way to get around it: Candy Crush is a shakedown. It sucks you in with its cute appearance, soothing soundtrack, and addictive gameplay, before grabbing you by your ankles, flipping you upside down, and shaking the lunch money out of your pockets. And the farther you progress in the game, the more they want to take.

I'm tempted to compare the game to a crack dealer, because both Candy Crush and crack dealers get you started for free, and only start charging once you're hooked. But ultimately, I realized that the comparison is unfair to crack dealers. Crack dealers don't continue to bump up the prices as you get more addicted. That would be bad for business. But Candy Crush doesn't care. As I played the game, I was constantly reminded of the famous line from Goodfellas: 'F*** you. Pay me.' That seems to be the attitude that the developers took here. I imagine that it's written all over the walls at headquarters.

The worst part is, when you first fire up the game, you won't notice that you're walking into a shakedown. Not right away. You'll breeze through the first dozen levels, getting the first taste, and having a good time. The gameplay is nice. The colors are stimulating. The soundtrack is so damn cute it's sickening. But at some point, you will hit a wall. You will fail. And when you run out of lives, the first shakedown happens. If you want to continue playing, you have three options: wait awhile for the lives to regenerate, pay real money for more lives (, or ask your Facebook friends to gift them to you.

This brings me to...

Bullshit Social Integration

I don't have anything against social integration in general. If a game has a meaningful social component (like Words with Friends does), bring it on. But in too many mobile games, the 'social' element is pointless to the gamer, and benefits only the developer. I imagine a boardroom of people who want to 'go viral' and 'get positive ROI from the social channel.' Yes, it works. But as a consumer, I hate feeling like the product. Prompt me to share if you want, but don't force my hand.

This is a single player game with a social mechanic that effectively equates to panhandling on a street corner. I have nothing against panhandling (just don't knock on my car window man, it's awkward), but don't make me grovel with my real world friends for in-game handouts. It's aggressive, and makes me feel uncomfortable.

The only reason that this 'gameplay' element exists is so the company can use you to market their game to your friends. It's a bullshit 'feature' that you will have to suffer through, and just one of many ways that this game (and many other mobile games) puts itself before the player.

But that's not all. It gets worse.

Bullshit power-ups you have to pay to use

This seems to be the big trend in mobile gaming these days. Congratulations, you unlocked an upgrade! Now pay us a shit ton of real money to use it. In what world does this make sense? Why make me unlock it in the first place if unlocking it doesn't unlock it? The whole experience is horrible, and as it proliferates, it's ruining mobile gaming for me. I don't mind DLC. I don't mind paying for games. But this pay to use the power-up nonsense is getting out of hand.

To be clear, I'm not talking about 99 cent power-ups here. The power-ups in Candy Crush are $16.99, $24.99 and $39.99. That's right. To get the most out of this game, will need to drop at least $82.On a simple single player game that you play on your phone. 

And even then, you need to...

Pay to unlock more levels

The 'free' version of Candy Crush only comes with 35 levels. They don't tell you this up front, of course -- and you will have no idea until you complete level 35. You will be asked to pony up 99 cents to move on. How many levels do you get for 99 cents? They don't tell you. Maybe 50, maybe 10. It's a crap shoot. But for a game where the levels are so simple to design, you must get a ton of them for a dollar, right?

NOPE! You get a couple dozen. And once you finish those, you'll have to pay for more.

I'm tired of this crap

I've installed a lot of games that are designed to take players' money. But none of them have asked for so much so often. Candy Crush represents everything that is wrong with mobile gaming. If things keep moving in this direction, I'm not sure that this is a platform that I'll be interested in playing on anymore. 

Just let me buy the damn game and leave me alone.

Originally Published Apr. 4th 2013


Kevin Spence is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma.

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  • 1
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  • 20
    Chai Chien Liang
    I thought you could unlock levels with facebook (though you have to pester your friends for the keys or something like that), my mum did play through quite a lot of levels, at least a few hundred (I was one of the people giving her keys!)

    Good news here is that fallout shelter is out and it's really fun to play!
  • 1
    This game has become sooo bullshit. I'm on level 445 and have spent tons of money on this crap. This is bullshit and I'm done!!!! King suxks!!! Can't get thru, let's charge you because you're now addicted. NO MORE $$$ for you guys who are rich from this and us poor people only wanted an outlet from real life. Thanks so much for giving us addicts to get addicted to something so stupid. Thought alcohol was bad. This game suxks!
  • 1
    I'm on level 960 in the regular area and 410 in the dreamworld. I have never spent a dime to play this game.
  • 1
    Rarely when I ask friends for help moving on to the next level does it allow me to do so. I have never hit the jackpot on the wheel even though I'm on level 409. I can see why they make hundreds of thousands of $'s every day
  • 1
    The other day. It had if I get 6000 green squares in 48 hrs I get 10 of everything on the boosters. I did it less then 24 hrs and got nothing which is Bullshit . Not fair at all!
  • 1
    I think it should be illegal for games to operate in this way. It is blatantly obvious that the game is rigged when you start getting to the levels that require you to collect orders. You might need to clear 89 blue candies, but now miraculously you will watch time and time again as next to no blue candies even land on the board. Sometimes starting the game with literally 0 of them. Such an obvious scam!
  • 1
    Yes, it has been very frustrating to me to get to a certain level and then have the "buy" this or that to continue..I never did, but it made me feel like I faile as I see my friends go on and its just not candy is all of the popular ones
  • 1
    John M_1021
    This game is nothing but a SCAM!
  • 1
    ron santoro
    I just want to buy the F----ng GAME and not be hooked by a Ponzi scheme GOOD BUY
  • 1
    I didn't upgrade the app for over a year. I absent mindedly upgraded and noticed a new "gold bar" feature that forces you to pay for new levels. That wasn't there before. I had to retrieve the old version from my iPad and delete all the updated versions to get the game that can be advanced through without paying.

    What a scam!!!
  • 1
    Waay ahead of you on this one bud. Never played candy crush or farmtown or that crappy flappy game. I've got plenty to keep me busy on my pc and consoles, I don't need marketing bullshit on my phones too, so I don't have ANY games on it.
  • 1
    This article and the majority of the comments are honestly hilarious. Listen up, you're all grown-ups, take some responsibility here. The game does not "trick" you into doing anything. It does not shake you down for your money. It is, in fact, 100% free to play and if you choose to spend money because you're too impatient, weak-willed, and/or unskilled to progress through the game without doing so, the developers are not to blame, YOU are. It is entirely possible to play through the entire game without ever spending a dime as myself and plenty of others have demonstrated. Honestly, quite a few of my friends play the game and I haven't known any of them to throw their money at it, and we're all getting through it just fine. Is it an addicting game? Absolutely! Do they work very hard to tempt you into purchasing power-ups and extra lives? Of course, why wouldn't they? You aren't entitled to free entertainment and they're allowed to make a living. But the choice is always yours and any attempt to put the blame on the developers is immature at best. Then again, I'd like to thank all of the people below me who spent tons of their hard earned money on the game. It's thanks to you folks that I can continue to play this polished, premium mobile game ad-free and without spending a dime!
  • 9
    Never saw the appeal in Candy Crush. I'll just stick with N.O.V.A. 3.
  • 1
    Millie Raid
    Im close to level 800, and have yet to spend a I don't understand how this game is a "shakedown" for all those who download and play...
  • 1
    lolalll fb game ssuck ass.
  • 1
    The sad thing is that it works. Its one of the most popular games and I bet makes them and google a shit load of money. I too hate this pay to upgrade crap and would happily buy a premium game if they hadnt tricked me into the free version with hidden power ups.
    I love playing the simpsons and family guy. Never bought anything, never will. But I read comments from people who spent upwards of $800 on the game and it just blows my mind.
  • 1
    Totally agree. Mind numbing BS. I'm done with and will delete the app. Not sure how it got good reviews from any user. Just sucks you in to spend more. Stupid app
  • 1
    I COMPLETELY AGREE! I know we are all complaining because we got sucked into this scheme but Lordy don't ya wish you had invented it??? It's our own fault I guess but ultimately you game inventors better know this game is making a lot of us quit ALL games. So no one wins but the Crush inventors.
  • 1
    Stay away from Best Fiends as well. That game is even worse than Candy Crush if you can believe it. It shakes you down almost every level for a dollar because the levels are designed to make you fail with the number of moves they give you. Oh, and while you have your wallet out, you might as well keep it open because without buying a shit-ton of crystals, you won't be able to upgrade your fiends.
  • 1
    Lady D_7084
    What a captivating but irritating game. What baffles me is how King would rather rip people off for temporary money and lose thousands of Candy Crush players to other games. Luring us in is easy. Giving us a game to enjoy could be permanent and beneficial to your company. At this point you are just as crocked as some insurance companies who are never interested in the well being of those who got the where they are today. Shame on you King. It's a Game.
    Last edited 9 months ago
  • 1
    The algorithm that creates the candy falling directly calculates what you need to succeed....and then does not give it to you. I have spent over 3 weeks playing at level 125....never got past it, never will. This game layout is stupid, retarded...and totally shit.

    Obama has a better chance of becoming a good President than you have at winning this game.
    Just delete it, and move on. This is a game made by criminals to screw you out of money...and for what? You pay for exactly what you get.....NOTHING.
  • 1
    not only CC but every game on facebook cost you money. Sometime it says I have 12 moves left,only to fine after only 2 moves it wants you to BUY the next move. this is ILLEGAL.
  • 1
    I COMPLETELY agree. I am waving goodbye to CC. The more you examine the way you are led into this process as a 'regular, unsuspecting, "trusting-in-the-goodness-of-human-nature", sort of person' the more aware you become of the cynical and psychopathic motivations of the developers. How apt!! Pure candy-coated Class A!! The more you try to understand the mindset of the developers, the more transparent it is. Innocuous and seemingly innocent at first-then the nastiness begins. Unfortunately, a lot of people will be hooked before they can walk away. I don't like being deceived or taken for a mug and I too, prefer the truth up front and then be left to get on with it. No sugar coating can take the nasty taste out of my mouth.
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