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All the Ways Candy Crush Saga Keeps You Hooked

This is the first post of a longer series with the working title “The Played Player”. In this series, we examine the most popular games and apps and identify the ways they are trying to keep us coming back to them. The first game is so ridiculously filled with different tricks it becomes hard to enjoy for someone with a gaming background. I am, of course, talking about Candy Crush Saga.

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If you are not familiar with Candy Crush Saga, it is a match-three game with a storyline set in a candy land. It’s a bright, colorful world, appealing to a younger audience and the lovers of candy. As a typical mobile game, it is divided into bite-sized levels that can be played in a couple of minutes. You know, while on public transit or waiting for your friends to arrive.

Candy Crush Saga has been around for a while but is still the 3rd highest grossing mobile game of all time. The game generates over two million dollars from in-app purchases every day. The game developer King really struck gold with this one. I decided to take a further look at what kind of mechanics would make people spend such large sums of money in a game. After playing the first 50 levels of Candy Crush Saga, this is what I found.

The social game

When you first open the game you are greeted with a pop-up that encourages you to connect your Facebook account. This would allow you to play with your friends and make the game social. Being the badass that I am, I decide to ignore it for now. That decision came back to haunt me the second time I opened the game. This time I was offered a gift of three lollipops to connect with Facebook. The game obviously wants you to share that you are playing.

Would you please connect that Facebook account? Pretty please?

As you might have guessed, the first level only involves swiping a few candies that are kindly pointed out to you. After that, it’s the time to show the first leaderboard. Each level has its own leaderboard with three tabs: rank, current level and levels this week. The game swaps between these leaderboards to show you the one that looks the best after each level.

Leaderboards are a recurring mechanic that makes Candy Crush Saga competitive. There are leaderboards for different timed events, weekly competitions, and individual levels. This helps the players feel that they are always good at something. Did not score so high in the level? No worries! Remember this event where you rank higher than Emma!

All right, Patricia, you scratch my back, I scratch yours.

There is a ridiculous amount of windows popping up after each level. One of them is the buddy challenge, that pairs the player up with someone else. The buddy challenge is a mechanic where both of the players have to complete a certain challenge to get “sweet rewards”. Of course, I had to complete the challenge! I would not want to leave Patricia here hanging. The challenge gives the players an incentive to play on. Otherwise, they will let someone down.

Bring in the emotions

Candy Crush Saga is filled with words like “Nice!”, “Awesome!” and “Sweet!”. Every sentence ends with an exclamation mark to give the player the feeling of excitement. This is a special moment! We are having fun! 

Candy Crush Saga complements you in every turn.

When you have played for a while, the game asks for your name. When you tell the game that, the experience becomes a bit more personalized to you. It is you on this adventure with these characters and all your friends! 

Candy Crush Saga also does a good job complementing the player at all times. Phrases like “You’re a quick learner!” and “You’re on fire!” are sprinkled all over this candy land. Again, a way to make the players feel better about themselves.

At some point, the game gives the player a booster gift and asks for an app store rating in return. Note here, that the gift is given before you do anything. The rating is asked as a kind of favor. We gave you a gift, it is only polite to thank us. And hey, it’s going to be five stars, right? We gave you a gift and all.

Boost me

The game sports an array of different boosters, each one designed for a specific situation. Each booster is introduced by giving away a free sample, but there is the option to buy more. The appropriate boosters start blinking when the player is close to achieving the goal of the level. That gives the player a sense of urgency. Moves are running out and something has to be done!

Boosters and other goods are bought with gold bars. Gold bars are bought with real money from the store. However, the game kindly offers a sample of 50 gold bars to show you these things are useful.

Nothing like free samples, a sprinkle of achievement and a sense of urgency to keep the players going. Click To Tweet

After some twenty levels a piggy bank pops up. The game tells me it’s my piggy bank, and I can collect gold bars in it. The bank fills up quickly and pops up a new message. This time it says I can now buy my piggy bank. And if you check the shop you will see a mere €3,49 is a bargain for 30 gold bars! I’ve never had to buy something that is mine before, and it feels weird. The piggy bank keeps reminding it is full after each and every level.

So close

I tried so hard and got so far.

Around level 25 I ran out of moves. The little girl accompanying me on my adventure is kind enough to point out I only have 1 jelly left. I am so close to passing the level and now she makes me an offer. One option would be to buy five more moves with ten gold bars, but I’m a cheapskate. I decide to go for the daily spin of the wheel of fortune. And oh boy did I feel lucky. I win five extra moves!

Next time I run out of moves a few levels further. This time I do not have my trusty wheel to save me. But I’m too cheap to pay gold bars for more moves, so I tap the X. Only the first tap does not close the window. A notification pops up that if you quit now, you will lose your streak. Even worse, you will lose Mort’s Magical Helmet you worked so hard to get! I decide to throw everything away and tap the X again.

Like most mobile games out there, Candy Crush Saga offers daily rewards for checking in the game. There are the treat calendar and the daily booster wheel. But that is only one of the types

I am now covered in green goop! Yay!

of rewards the game gives its players.

As I go further on the candy land map, I am presented with all sorts of things to achieve. I can collect event rewards, mystery chests or gold trophies. There is always a new achievement in sight. The achievements keep raining in the beginning but get harder the further you progress in the game.

Finally, there is the assistant that helps the player find the next match of three candies. I felt like it was giving solid advice in the beginning. There is no way to prove this, but I felt like the advice got worse as I proceeded. The assistant started to point out matches on the side of the screen when there were better ones in the center to clear out the jelly. My trusty assistant does not want me to lose, does it?


That’s it. My experience of 50 levels of Candy Crush Saga. It’s the busiest game I have ever played and I have come to a conclusion that this is not my piece of candy. The obvious mechanics can easily annoy some players but work great on others.

How do you feel about Candy Crush Saga? Are you aware of these mechanics? Do you have another addicting game in mind we should review? Leave a comment below or tweet me @loadlastsavenow.