As part of our apps that changed the world series, today we’ll briefly highlight one of the most perennially popular apps that has taken the world by storm – Candy Crush. It’s not often that we focus on video games here on Mobile Industry Review, but it’s pretty hard to argue against the fact that Candy Crush has truly been a global phenomenon.
Candy Crush – deceptively simple yet addictive
Let me first point out that I am not a Candy Crush player, however I am a casual gamer, having grown up as a ‘console gamer’ with in the late 80’s and 90’s. As for smartphone and tablet games, I have to admit a penchant for mobile games that are easy to pick up, yet hard to put down. And that’s where Candy Crush has really nailed it.
The game is deceptively simple: players have to match three or more brightly coloured hard-boiled sweets to win points and progress on to the next candy-coloured level. It’s a bit like Tetris, but slightly easier (at least in the beginning).
Sebastian Knutsson, the Swedish creative director of games company King Digital Entertainment, is the driving force behind the game. Knutsson, 45, says that sweets seemed like a good idea at the time – the bold colours of jelly beans, sherbet lemons and barley sugars reminded him of the arcade games that he grew up with in the 90’s.
“I’m not the PlayStation generation that expects everything to be in 3D”, he says. “I enjoyed Tetris and pinball machines: the games where you got stuck and you’d give it another go for 25p to try again”.
Candy Crush was the result of his aim to create that sense of simple pleasure – but nobody could quite have seen its impact around the world.
Just a year after its release on Facebook in 2012, Candy Crush became the social network giant’s most popular game with more than 46 million players each month. Now it has been downloaded to hundreds of millions of mobile devices and more than 100 million people play it every day. It was also the most downloaded free app in 2013 and at that time the in-app purchases (which can help players advance more quickly) were generating more than £500,000 in daily sales.
As of February this year, the game was making almost $1 million every single day:
That propelled Candy Crush to contribute the majority of Kings revenue, but just this week the company issued a profit warning for the next quarter, saying that it expects a dip in revenues, partly due to the lack of any new games in the immediate future.
Perhaps part of Candy Crush’s appeal is that, like the other perennial favourites in the app store charts (such as Boom Beach and Clash of Clans), it’s multi-platform and can be played on social networks, smartphones, computers and tablets. Games can be picked up for a few minutes – on the way to work, at a lunch break, or during a boring meeting…
However, despite its popularity and appeal, psychologist say that even though it’s a freemium game (free to play, but add-ons are sold at a premium), it can in fact lead to gambling problems. Industry concerns over the cost of in-app purchases led the UK’s Office of Fair Trading to investigate, and many players say the game has had a negative impact on their lives (in one survey, 32% of players say they ignore friends and family to play the game).
Professor Mark Griffiths, head of the International Gaming Research Institute at Nottingham Trent University, has said that games such as Candy Crush “introduce players to the principles and excitement of gambling. Small, unpredictable rewards lead to highly engaged, repetitive behaviour. In a minority, this may lead to addiction”.
The game isn’t only popular in western markets such as the US and the UK (today it’s still the third highest-grossing app in the iOS app store). In India, one of the fastest growing economies in the world, Candy Crush has also dominated the charts – reflecting a similar story in almost every smartphone-obsessed country around the world.
In March this year for example, players in India averaged playing Candy Crush more than 7 minutes per game, and an average of 4.5 games a day. Furthermore, more than 31% of those gamers are daily active users, the key audience that also spend money on in-app purchases once in a while.
Candy Crush (and playing games in general) might not be everybody’s cup of tea, but the game’s appeal is enduring and it’s won over millions of fans. It has also generated billions of dollars of income and helped to support and grow the ‘app economy’. They must be doing something right…