Friday TechMunch: Long Live the King

Hi, I’m Liz…and I’m a Candy Crush addict.

It feels so good to finally be able to say it!

For the uninitiated (those who have been living under a rock for the past two years), Candy Crush Saga is a match-three game, much like Bejeweled, where players slide, swap and match candies to score points and complete a level. If you want to, you can also connect it to your Facebook account so you can share lives and compete for top level scores with similarly obsessed friends. And… yep, that’s about it.

As simplistic a mechanic as it is, however, the game is the undisputed ruler – sorry, couldn’t resist – of the casual-gaming sector. Candy Crush was the most popular gaming app of 2013, securing more than 500 million downloads since its launch in April 2012 and a staggering 600 million active game sessions each day from mobile devices alone.

So popular is the game amongst those Facebook-connected players that in August 2013, AppData, the company that measures these things, had to adjust its counting process after running into a bizarre problem – the game was so popular and the growth so sharp, the algorithm was unable to cope. AppData did some tinkering and found that Candy Crush Saga has 132.45 million monthly Facebook-connected users. This is more than a tenth of Facebook’s 1.15 billion monthly active users – and that was six months ago.

Not only is London-based developer, King, busy increasing its Candy Crush user base and creating fiendishly tricky new levels (500 and counting), it’s also making quite a bit of money (£400,000 per day) out of that freemium app.

So, why is it so damn addictive?

Candy Crush is hardly a new concept – its mechanics are child’s-play, its colours are garish and its actions mindless and repetitive. There is no masterful storytelling or witty banter involved. What there is however, is a faultlessly well-researched, cleverly engineered and a carefully fine-tuned amalgamation of existing concepts.

Plenty of games, from Tetris to Bejeweled, have blazed the way for it to become what it is today and quite a few have tried to jump on the candy-wagon and follow in its footsteps (*cough* Candy Heroes *cough*) but Candy Crush is not so easy to replicate.

Easy to play but not so easy to win, new goals and new challenges on every level keep old players on their toes and new gamers hooked. Largely glitch-free and with unpredictable but useful rewards, plus a clever rationing of lives… Much like a fruit machine therein lies everything you need to develop a Candy Crush.

A few months ago, UK Rehab, an addiction treatment provider, actually launched a dedicated residential rehab program specifically designed for Candy Crush addicts. The program, which costs a minimum of $5,000, was created after the centre fielded a number of calls from worried parents and spouses. Seeing as plenty of fans admit to obsessively measuring out their lives to get through a working day and the occasional dream of cascading bon-bons and exploding chocolate buttons, it’s probably for the best.

FYI, if anyone misses me in the office next week you know where I am…