In 2012, I downloaded Candy Crush because a close friend of mine was playing it. He was up to level 50 and I made it my mission to overtake him. I remember thinking, holy shit. 50 levels? But as is the case with any game or puzzle that has levels, they start easy and get harder.
As you can imagine, I made it to level 50 pretty quickly. But AJ climbed the ladder, too.
He stumbled across that now well-known Candy Crush hack that allows you to gain more lives by pushing your clock forward by three hours. And being the kind dude he was, he shared this with me, despite our unnecessarily aggressive competition. Normally ‘hacks’ make games less enjoyable, but this one didn’t. It meant I could sit there for hours and zone out. Candy Crush is mindless and it reset my mind.
Anyone close to me knows sleeping isn’t my forte, so there was a lot of restless nights where I would play Candy Crush until I finally drifted off. The point I’m teetering on is that I spent a lot of time playing Candy Crush since 2012.
AJ and I got pretty competitive. Levels passed before our eyes, 100, 200, 400. It was a constant back and forth with who would be in the lead.
You may have noticed I wrote above AJ ‘was’ a kind dude. He left this Earth in 2016. I don’t remember what level either of us was at the last time I saw him, but I couldn’t bring myself to open the app after he was gone. I’d look at the app and tears would fill my eyes, and the knot in my throat felt like I was doing something terrible, playing it without him. About six months later, I started playing again. And every time I open the app, I still think of him. It’s now December 2021. Nine years since I first downloaded Candy Crush because AJ told me to.
As I type, I’m up to level 8,596. At the time of writing, there are apparently 10,220 levels. There was a time I’d be at the end, waiting for more levels to appear. It hasn’t been that way for a while. I keep saying I’ll stop when I reach the end, but it’s the very definition of a shifting goal post.
Progressive levels aren’t actually getting harder, they’re getting impossible to pass without paying. Paying for boosters or paying for extra moves.
This is where the issue of microtransactions comes in.
A microtransaction is basically a way of making money that gets users spending in small amounts. Microtransactions often appear in free-to-play games, like Candy Crush, meaning there is no cost to download the game, just a cost to buy the online virtual products.
Candy Crush was one of the first freemium apps to generate over $1 billion revenue. In 2020, Candy Crush generated $1.19 billion. According to KLOC Digital Solutions, Candy Crush earns $4 per active user – and it currently has 273 million active users.
A little bit of further context – Candy Crush was developed by King. King was acquired by Activision Blizzard for $5.9 billion. There’s a lot going on with Activision Blizzard right now, too, that’s worth reading up on. This is the latest at the time this piece was published.
While this is a successful business model for Activision, it’s made the game unenjoyable when you reach the levels I’m on. What used to be my happy place, a way to remember the competitive friendship I’ve now lost, a thing I could immerse myself in and reset my mind has become tiresome, frustrating and no longer enjoyable. The reason I still open the app is more habit. I’m addicted.
I have spent money on the app.
What usually gets me are the ‘sales’— of course I’m going to spend $4.99 on something that usually costs $20.
Sometimes I’ve paid when it’s been a few days where I’m stuck on the same level and one tiny thing will get me past. While I can’t properly do an inventory, I’ve estimated spending about $1,000 since 2016. And honestly, as a ‘hardcore’ player, it’s easy to see how some could spend $2,600 in one day.
I think the reason I haven’t spent more is principal, more than anything.
Making New Year’s resolutions are usually pointless, but I’m putting mine in writing to be held accountable. I’m not going to play Candy Crush in 2022. Activision, you’re losing your Candy Crush stans because you’ve made the game no longer enjoyable and it’s clearly only about making money. There’s prompts to buy boosters at every stage (there was even a Kardashian partnership in the U.S. and what the actual fuck?)
Candy Crush, you’re now toxic and it’s time we broke up. It’s not me, it’s you.
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