The sobering reality of Candy Crush and freemium gaming

The issue is not that Candy Crush is raking in a reported $633,00 per day on a freemium model, it’s that the app is going to be held up as ‘something that’s possible’ with the current freemium model. Like a gold rush, we’ll see more games turn to this model, which extract more money out of users (over a longer timescale) for games of dubious quality that start out as ‘skill’ and slowly morph into ‘you must pay to have any success’.

It’s feeling a lot like Las Vegas.

For a more sobering look at the issue of freemium games, and the psychological tricks used to empty your wallet, Ramin Shokrizade’s article on Gamasutra is required reading:

King.com’s Candy Crush Saga is designed masterfully in this regard. Early game play maps can be completed by almost anyone without spending money, and they slowly increase in difficulty. This presents a challenge to the skills of the player, making them feel good when they advance due to their abilities. Once the consumer has been marked as a spender (more on this later) the game difficulty ramps up massively, shifting the game from a skill game to a money game as progression becomes more dependent on the use of premium boosts than on player skills.

If the shift from skill game to money game is done in a subtle enough manner, the brain of the consumer has a hard time realizing that the rules of the game have changed. If done artfully, the consumer will increasingly spend under the assumption that they are still playing a skill game and “just need a bit of help”. This ends up also being a form of discriminatory pricing as the costs just keep going up until the consumer realizes they are playing a money game.

This is what mobile gaming has become.