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.

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


Published Apr. 4th 2013
  • Katajojo
    I've read every comment here, and there appears to be two basic schools of thought regarding the game Candy Crush Saga. The first school, at its basic level, is a complaint that the game is a money grabber, and manipulates the player into purchasing bonuses, upgrades, and keys that unlock levels. The second school is basically a response to the first, a rebuke. It states that it's a player's own choice to hand over their money; the game doesn't force anyone to buy anything.

    I am a retired research scientist, also well versed in the law, AND a player of CC. Lol. All the statements people have made are to a point fundamentally true: CC IS a money grabber; it does try to manipulate players with tempting "helps;" it IS the player's choice to purchase bonuses and upgrades; and the game doesn't force the player to buy anything. (Or does it?)

    I read a comment or two defending a company's right to make a profit, and that offering in-game helps and upgrades for purchase is not unethical. True enough! IS very unethical, not to mention outright illegal, for a dealer to cheat at the gaming table, or for any business to engage in consumer fraud.

    I have never spent a dime on CC, but I have found myself frustrated like countless, numerous, others as, while playing a game which appeared so random at first, all of a sudden seems to come to life, and, rather than my advancing from one level to the next with what had previously been a mathematical, logical acceleration, I found myself outwitted and stalemated for hours, then days, on a single level. Of course I was bombarded with purchase offers to get me through the difficult impasse. Forget it, I just shut off the game. I let it go for over a month.

    When I came back, a month later, the level that had been impossible to achieve for days on end, was suddenly completed in two tries, and again I progressed through the levels with a consistent, mathematical flow...then it stopped again. When I focused closer, the game seemed as if it were governed by an algorithm that controlled the placement of the candies on the screen, relative to the choices I was making. A few days later, after realizing I was advancing in computer chess faster than I was advancing at CC, I decided to "pay attention," somewhat scientifically, somewhat not, to the "randomness" of the CC game. I took screenshots of my candy colors in dreamland, I made actual counts of candies and placements in regular world, numbers of successes, failed attempts, how time away affected success rates etc etc. I analyzed the games randomness, by pencil and paper, short of doing a chi square.

    Folks, the game IS NOT random, and it does do what people have accused it of doing. In addition to all the manipulative ploys to part you from your money, if you don't pay, you're restricted from the game for a period of time. The most ridiculous is when you've completed all the games, and are ready to advance to the next level, only to be told you need to pay for immediate access, or wait 72 hours. LOL! (That usually works against them in my case as I put the game away then forget about it, but kids and teens, who haven't outgrown their immediate gratification needing brains, won't do that, so this game preys on the youngsters and their money.)

    That said: if CC has created an algorithm which removes the randomness of the falling candies, thereby removing control of the game by the player, but rather controls the difficulty of the game as it's being played - by strategically placing game pieces in places which eliminate the probability of winning the game due to chance alone - is fraud! CC is the internet version of an old carnival game at the local county fair. They're illegal. You can't stack a game. If you do, the "game" is no longer a game but a scam. Las Vegas has strict rules which governs gaming. Games, all games, are governed by randomness or they cease to be a game. You can't take the randomness out of a game and weight it in favor of one side, ESPECIALLY when it involves money. It's illegal.

    It's time internet games were held accountable. I think the best thing would be if credit cards got smart and disallowed in-game purchases for mobike games like CC, just like they disallow casino-style, in-game purchases. That happened back in the late 90's. Credit cards finally stopped allowing in-game, or in-house, casino charges, because people were losing their savings. You can buy or download a casino type game, but you cannot buy continual in-game purchases. Credit cards need to realize these other games are no different. CC really is basically a gambling style game without the chance of payout.

    Now, when a company commits fraud, especially a scam, the courts often rule that the consumer's informed consent was not given, and their freedom of choice is not taken into count, as they did not have all the information avaikable to make an educated purchase. So, in this case, most likely, a court might find that King Games did, in fact, coerce players into purchasing gaming helps under false pretenses. Those pretenses being that players believe they are playing a solitaire game of chance and skill, where, once a level starts, the player believes the pieces fall randomly, (as they should), and that they alone, as a solitary player, have sole control of the game. Players are allowed to believe that the only reason they aren't winning is because of their own lack of skill. Players are allowed to believe that all they need do is purchase a little extra help to increase their skill, and level. Players are not aware that they are, in fact, playing a real-time algorithm which strategically places the pieces on the board against them, as though they were playing another individual. Players believe they are in a solitaire game with their own skill as the only variable. They have no idea, until it's too late, that they've been playing against a masterful computer program.

    Courts would state that players are more apt to purchase helps in a game to improve on their own skills, and enhance their enjoyment of the game, but would definitely resist purchasing a help where they knew they were simply being duped out of their money with no real chance of ladting success. Therefore, the argument of choice, ESPECIALLY where kids are concerned, is void when fraud is involved. Clearly, when people figure out they've been duped by this game, they stop playing. The company KING, CAN, and should, be sued for fraud. At the least, the consumer protection agency, at the least, should be sent all these complaints.
  • Capt. Eliza Creststeel
    Three years after this clickbait microaggression-causing microtransaction filled game hits folks are still frustrated by it. :)
  • Janis_8303
    this game would be fun except they show you where to put the pieces. it doesn't let you concentrate on your game, those little pieces that jiggle is really aggravating. I don't think I'm going to play much longer.
  • Dave_7466
    Whose idea was it to offer the game to try to win three (hard) levels with one life?????? That is so ridiculously stupid: has ANYBODY ever gone up three levels in a row??????? Candy Crush has really broken the stupid mold!
  • Kingripyouoff
    My issue is that King should be forced to point out that for 99% of players you need to pay to get past certain levels. I realise there are a lucky few who seem to manage a way past these levels but for the majority of us you either have to quit or pay. I don't really have a problem with that but King should be forced to point that out when you download the app.
    Of course the app stores are never going to do that because they are making a fortune but they should also be forced to point it out to potential customers.
    I can't believe I am taking the time to even post this but it pisses me off that King get away with it and they are impossible to contact no matter what they say on their forum sight. They refuse to answer any criticism. Of course it's fun but for anyone with an even vaguely addictive nature this is a money pit of enormous proportions which they have a responsibility to address. Instead they just keep taking the money over and over again until presumably you have none left.
  • mumsy_8401
    has anyone else noticed that CC will cheat the player with moves? for instance lining up 4 in a row and NOT getting your striped candy. there are others but i won't waste my time. just wondering if anyone else has noticed that? i have reached level 1014 without paying a cent to continue, but i am fed up with the cheating that continues on their part just to frustrate me into paying. it wont' work!!
  • Bullshitter
    And OP: you're a dumbass.
  • Bullshitter
    I call bullshit. My gf passed lvl 1000 without ever paying a dime for the game. All you whiners should just stop playing.

    EDIT: you can also just download a mod if you're this whiney.
  • Shirleyann
    I'm embarrassed to keep bugging friends in order to pass on to level 126. Players beware. Don't even start unless your willing to spend money. Something i will never do to play.
  • Shirleyann
    Good luck at level 125. I've played for 7 months straight and refuse to spend a dime. If i don't pass soon i will delete the game forever.
  • kate.farrow
    Community Manager
    TIL that Candy Crush ruins lives.
  • GameSkinny Staff
    Only today?
  • Grandpa Dave
    This is a scam for sealing pennies from babes... Don't give your kids credit cards or you'll pay big time when the monthly statement arrives.
  • Richar_2771
    I hate candy crush you get friends to send tickets to help you get through levels and candy crush holds you back and will not let them through and you end up waiting the whole time limit they set for you to get through now that sucks big time
  • 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!
  • stacey_9389
    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!
  • Karissa_9312
    I'm on level 960 in the regular area and 410 in the dreamworld. I have never spent a dime to play this game.
  • Linda_3514
    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
  • Barbara_1307
    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!
  • LaykenBM
    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!
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