Candy Crush Player Blew $2.6k on Game Currency but Developer Denies Game Is Addictive

  • Representatives from Candy Crush developer King have been giving evidence to a UK government hearing on immersive and addictive technologies
  • A senior executive revealed a player had once spent $2,600 on a single purchase of in-game currency
  • The company denied Candy Crush is addictive, saying only one British player had asked to self-exclude since the start of 2018
  • MPs said King was failing to take responsibility for players who might be struggling to overcome problem levels of gaming
Candy Crush being played on iPhone
The maker of Candy Crush is under fire from the British government for not doing enough to protect its players from excessive spending.

Big spender

A senior executive at King, which makes the popular online game Candy Crush, has revealed that a single player spent $2,600 (£2,050) in one day on in-app purchases.

According to King executive Alex Dale, the big-spending player handed over his cash to buy a bundle of gold bars in a sale of in-app boosters in 2018. Dale was quick to emphasize that the player had made a “rational decision” to bulk-buy the in-game currency and spend it in Candy Crush over the next seven months.

Dale added that the player bought another bundle of gold bars at the end of that period for $1,060 (£840), also for use over several months.

Players use in-app purchases to complete game levels quickly and more easily. Currently, the cheapest bundle of 20 gold bars plus nine power-ups costs $1.99. A bundle of 1,000 gold bars costs $74.99 (and £74.99 in the UK).

Not addictive

Dale was giving evidence on online gaming to a commons select committee of the UK parliament. The committee is currently investigating immersive and addictive technologies.

He denied Candy Crush is addictive, telling the committee: “Among 270 million players we have between two and three contacts a month from people concerned about having spent too much money or time on the game. It is a very, very small number who spend or play at high levels. When we speak with them they say they are happy with what they are doing.”

He cited the high-spending player to illustrate why not all major in-app purchases indicate an addiction. He said: “[$2,600] sounds, and is, a large amount of money. There was a sale on at the time so they were making a rational decision. It is down to player choice if that is what they want to do.”

Dale also told the committee that the company had previously messaged players who spent more than $250 in a week on in-app purchases. However, players found such messages intrusive, saying they only spend money on the game when they can afford to.

A second company executive at the hearing claimed that since the start of 2018, only one gamer in the UK had contacted King to ask to be self-excluded.

MP Damian Collins, who chairs the committee, was critical of King’s approach to addicted gamers. He said: “What I’m not getting is any sense that you feel you have a responsibility as a company to identify people that are addicted. You are only happy for them to refer themselves to you if they think they have a problem.”

A medical condition

Exactly one year ago, the World Health Organization added “gaming disorder” to its official list of mental illnesses.

The WHO classifies gaming disorder as “a pattern of gaming behavior characterized by impaired control over gaming, increasing priority given to gaming over other activities to the extent that gaming takes precedence over other interests and daily activities, and continuation or escalation of gaming despite the occurrence of negative consequences. [The] behavior pattern must be of sufficient severity to result in significant impairment in personal, family, social, educational, occupational, or other important areas of functioning and would normally have been evident for at least 12 months.”

However, Dale told the committee hearing: “We will look at the whole area again but we have done it before and they didn’t like it. We have customer support available in 24 languages. Among 270 million players we have between two and three contacts a month from people concerned about having spent too much money or time on the game.”

The UK government’s hearing recognized the need to scrutinize addictive technologies including mobile and video games.

Fortnite also ducks questions

Last week, the committee heard evidence from executives from EA, which makes the FIFA football games, and Fortnite developer Epic Games. Both FIFA and Fortnite have been at the center of controversy over loot boxes, an in-app purchase that amounts to gambling because the buyer doesn’t know what reward they will receive on opening the box.

Matthew Weissinger, Epic’s director of marketing, denied Fortnite was addictive or a way to extract money from its players but refused to tell the committee how much revenue an average player generated for the company.

He also gave a vague definition of a frequent player, describing them as a person who had used the game “within the last two weeks, or 30 days.” His colleague, Canon Pence, added: “We think it’s difficult to have a categorical understanding of what that is, given it varies from time to time and person to person.”

Candy Crush Saga by numbers

  • 270 million players globally
  • 9 million players spend 3-6 hours a day on play and 432,000 people play for more than six hours a day
  • The average length of daily play is 38 minutes
  • 500 million installations on mobile devices and Facebook
  • Mobile accounts for 70% of an estimated 1 billion plays per day
  • Women aged 35 and older are the core demographic



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