Candy Crush: the game you're not allowed to buy

Feature Simon Brew 1 Jun 2013 - 08:36

The mobile game Candy Crush provides plenty of ways to spend your money, but not on just purchasing the full game, Simon laments...

"What are you doing?", I casually enquired of my wife. She's the owner of a popular brand of tablet computer, and I noticed that she was uncharacteristically deep in the settings of said device. She told me, calmly and desperately trying to hide the signs of an addict, that she was just moving the clock back on her machine.

"Why?", I casually asked. I couldn't help it. I couldn't resist. I should have resisted.

Because as it turns out, she was trying to fool said device into thinking that sufficient time had passed that she should be allowed extra lives on Candy Crush.

Since we had this conversation, two things have happened. Firstly, she decided to cough up. Secondly, I've spent a bit of time with Candy Crush. It's a really well designed puzzle game, that lends itself exceptionally well to a touch screen interface. Sure, it stands on the shoulders of many games I've seen before. But it's got some interesting ideas of its own, and apparently, it's got the best part of 15 million people glued to it. And I can see why.

I relented then, and downloaded a copy to try myself. It didn't take long to be hooked. I've always been a bit of a sucker for puzzle games. Heck, I've lost more time than I'd care to think about to the likes of Klax, E-Motion, Plotting, Pang, Ballistic, half of the PopCap catalogue, number of word games and the majesty of Bust-A-Move (the score to Bust-A-Move 4 on the PlayStation remains a flat-out classic for my money). I hunted around for the 'buy' button, because I'm a bit old fashioned. I wanted to actually buy the game outright.

I couldn't. And I hope that's just me missing an option here, as that's where the sugary taste of Candy Crush started to turn a bit sour. 

The creators of Candy Crush, King, don't want a few pounds off me in exchange for their admittedly strong game. No. They'd rather get me to do it in instalments. To charge me for things that games aren't supposed to charge you for.

So, stuck on a level and want just a little bit more time? That can be arranged for a small fee.

Is it just me that has a problem with that? That you can trade off the skill of defeating a tough level by chucking a few coins at the company behind it? Because if that's what gaming has come to, what's the point? Defeating the end of level boss on R-Type was a hugely satisfying moment. I appreciated from the off that it needed skill, determination and a bit of luck. It certainly didn't need 69p and a secure socket layer transaction.

But then this is the modern world of micropayments. The in-app purchase is king, and has become, in some cases, more important than finishing the game the proper way. Run out of lives, and want to top them up, rather than waiting for a fresh allocation every half hour or so? No problem, we take Visa, says the game. Some boosters to help you beat a level? Walk this way. Oh, and have you visited our shop? It sells everything but the full game itself. In fact, you can buy a permanent 'cheat' of sorts for £27.99. £27.99! You're allowed to spend that cheating the game, you're not allowed to spend that buying it.

It instantly means, of course, that there's suddenly no upper limit on the price of Candy Crush Saga. Once upon a time, you could buy a game for £20-30, and that was that. Now, this free download has a major sting in its tail, and if you're a particular devotee, you could comfortably have got to £10 or £20, perhaps even more, without even realising. 

It's an inevitable sign of the times, perhaps. It used to be we paid extra for new levels. Now, we pay extra to get help with the ones we've got. It's like the premium rate tip line is built in from the off. 

The cynic in me also fears that there's no incentive for King to make the levels fair once they get past a certain point. I've played some tricky ones, where I'm sat wondering if this is good game design I'm up against, or a corporate decision to suddenly up the ante, to try and get at my wallet. This is nothing new, of course. The coin-op of Arkanoid notoriously had a bastard-hard third level, so that you could be chucked off in time for the next person. And anyway, whoever managed to get to Thursday on Paperboy without a significant financial investment has a rare talent. But at least Arkanoid and Paperboy never had a stage where you had to stop playing for 24 hours before the game would unlock the next level. Unless, of course, you crossed its palm with silver.

My problem here, then, is a simple one. I think the game is terrific. I want to buy it, and feel it entirely fair I do so.  But, in any traditional sense, I can't. King, in the FAQ on its site, argues - and I've no evidence to doubt this - that most people complete the game without spending any money. Fair enough. Whether they can get through it without plastering their Facebook wall for a plug for the game isn't clear. Either way, you do get a reasonable amount for free here, and it's hard to argue with that.

But in the rush to get us continually spending money while playing a game, can the likes of King make room for fuddie-duddies like me, who want to give them money in exchange for an end to the nagging?

As it stands, I feel like I've been given a quote for how much it'll cost me to play the game, but with a warning up front that things may go over budget. I'm just grateful, in hindsight, they never got me playing Tetris on the same kind of meter...

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A Fool And His Money Are Soon Parted.

Just download the cheat hack for Firefox browser leethax dot net no need to buy lives

I play several games made by King via FB and yes, you can play the game without paying. That is, if you have at least 3 friends who play the game as well and who don't mind that you bug them every 1-2 days because you need a favor so you can progress in the game. With Pearl's Peril (also by King) You also shouldn't object to playing the same levels over and over again because you have to have prestige to open new levels. Prestige you get buy building objects but unfortunately you ran out of land. You can earn new land by playing more levels but you can't play a new level because you haven't got prestige. ARGH! Of course I could BUY the tools needed to go to the next level but I downright refuse. There's plenty of other games to play without that hassle.

You don't seem to be able to get past level 35 without Facebook or payment

King is a gambling company, what did you expect?

Whats next? A review of Roulette where the reviewer whinges about having to put money on a number or a colour?

I'd rather spend the money on quality Xbox games, and with that I expect a living room experience. Tablet games are time passers and something to have in the background while my girlfriend watches crap reality tv, and as such, are not really for me as an experience to plough money into.

I do begrudgingly spend £7 on football manager, though.

"Is this what gaming has come to?"
Yes. It is ubiquitous, optional, and appealing to a lucrative subset of players. There are plenty of games to enjoy that do not employ micropayments as a primary function. I've dropped a couple of bucks in the Candy Crush bucket, but after my initial binge, it's become obvious that just sending requests amongst friends for power-ups, lives, and unlocks for the next set of levels provides sufficient enjoyment without additional cost.

I'm a recent convert to this game, but this model was made by farmville and there should be no surprise at it's further development. The model is more or less ubiquitous and will no doubt become a feature on the new xbox and PlayStation. It even has it's own marketing speak, gamification.

Meh, if people spend the cash, it will keep happening.

The market will decide if this is a success.

In a world filled with rampant piracy every medium is looking for a way to actually earn money from their developments, and this seems to be a winner, if people are coughing up for it.

Obviously there's a big question as to whether there are any legal rules in this area.

What if a sneaky game comes out that it turns out you can't humanly complete a level on *unless* you buy more time?

Will that be fraud? How is that judged? Who do you complain to in that instance?

I played and then deleted it..I refuse to pay money on a game as I go..either I'm told the price at the beginning or I get the option to have it for free but bombarded with adds! Plus I ain't gunna be made to have a Facebook account so my 'friends' can send me lives.. I really enjoyed deleting it! Ps if you want more lives before the time expires just adjust your clock on the device your playing it was either move the clock forward or backward I can't remember..better still join me in the fight against Candy Crush wasting our valuable time!!!

I absolutely despise this model, but I won't contribute to it, most classic gamers won't - and most casual gamers will tire eventually. It's a bubble that will, inevitably and obviously burst (but those obvious bursts ALWAYS elude investors and analysts).

When it bursts it bursts, it doesn't really impact the games industry at large because it is exactly the kind of thing people get wise to. The bigger threat is EAs new policy of including micro transactions in all their games - it does no harm to have a pay as you go set of games whose reputation constantly diminshes over time, but EA have the potential to remove peoples trust in retail pay up front games.

There are hacks available for the game, jail broke or not, that enable you to have enough to not need to spam Facebook friends for help

And anyone who says hacking is wrong, I feel it's wrong for games to be like this, where they deliberately try to force you to spend real cash, and do not give you the option to purchase the game outright

Well I once had to initiate fraud proceedings against Frontier Games over the game Coaster Crazy because I tried to buy Gems and 5 straight times it said "error could not connect to iTunes", and then the next day, I looked on my bank website and they charged me for those 5 times, and when I sent an email and trouble ticket asking for either the gems or a refund, they never bothered to respond, so I went to my bank and they tried to contact them to no avail, so my bank red flagged them and sent a complaint off to iTunes as well. A day after that happened, I was suddenly banned from the Frontier Forums and from their gamecenter account. Ever since, I refuse to pay real cash, which is why I have nothing tied to my itunes account, so there cant even be an accidental purchase

I started playing this a few days ago to see what all the fuss is about and got up to level 35. Apparently you can progress past if for free if you manage to do 3 "quests", of which the second one sets an impossible target unless you're really lucky with the shapes the game pulls out (I suspect it is impossible though and King's reasoning would be that for hold-outs like me, getting us to spend the nominal 50p to move onto level 36 will be the thin end of the wedge). With that philosophy behind it, I certainly don't intend to pay for it, regardless of how slick a version of Bejweled it is (or Shariki to give credit to the original idea).

At that point I stopped playing it because whatever way I'm wired, winning as a result of chance doesn't do it for me - Things like roulette and slot machines have never had any kind of draw for me and that's the direction I see the design of this game heading towards.

I play it, but I've never put any money down for it. I feel like it adds to the challenge. Considering they make it that hard that a lesser man would put down some money. Plus, when the lives run out, that's me had my fill for the day and I come back later.

Hello! I am on level 340 & haven't spent a cent. I have, however, had to use Facebook to advance between levels and the occasional (lol) life. -trina

a.) If a game as as much in-your-face intrusive advertising as this game, I am not interested.

b.) If your game is designed to be frustrating unless I pay you more money, I am not interested.

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