The game is to “mix and match sweets in a combination of three or more, to gain points and other bonuses as you progress”, King states on the game’s web page. Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: For millions, it’s an addiction, with one calling it “crack” candy. No wonder then that the free puzzle game topped the list of the iTunes applications download for 2013. 

Candy Crush Saga, which is becoming a worldwide phen-omenon, is also making an estimated profit of $1 million (Dh3.67 million) a day. The online game is played by millions of people around the world — it is played by more women than men.

According to Apple’s Best of iTunes list, it was the most downloaded free app for the iPhone and iPad. Linking it to social networks is helping it spreading like wild fire.
Dealers say Candy Crush Saga is part of a “multi-billion dollar industry of free online games”, which can be played by anyone at anytime. 

Another segment of games are the ones people buy, such as Xbox and PlayStation games, which “are more high-end games” played by “gamers”, dealers told Gulf News.
“The whole idea of free-to-play [games] like Candy Crush is that they [the makers] want to make people addicted, so they go and purchase things for it to continue,” said Kishin Palija, managing director of Geekay Games, a regional video game retail company with its headquarters in Dubai.

Candy Crush, which was launched in late 2012, has reportedly been downloaded 500 million times across the world; has been played more than 150 trillion times; has 100 million users a month; and has nearly 57 million likes on its Facebook page. Apart from Facebook and the Apple store, the game can be downloaded from Google Play and Kindle Fire.

Since these games are available on a mobile phone, “players” can play anytime, anywhere: at home, at work and at café’s.  Candy Crush, which has 485 levels, was launched by “King”, the British mobile games maker.

How to play

The game is to “mix and match sweets in a combination of three or more, to gain points and other bonuses as you progress”, King states on the game’s web page.
“Start your game on Facebook or mobile and seamlessly continue your saga between platforms. Your game play will be fully synched across all devices,” it added.

Some estimates put the daily profits of the free online game at $1 million (Dh3.67 million), where players are buying “extra tools” that help them continue playing and reach higher levels without waiting for some time to be offered free “lives”.

Some players are even changing the setting of their gadget in order to continue playing. Dealers and psychologists believe profit numbers to be “reasonable”.  
“Because at the end of the day, if you think about it, they charge you a very, very small amount which you don’t realise,” said Palija, referring  to the $0.99 “buyers are charged”.

Global phenomenon

“It is a worldwide game and a worldwide phenomenon like Angry Birds [another online game], said Saliha Afridi, Clinical Psychologist and the Managing Director of The LightHouse Arabia.

“In the end, Candy Crush is about making money.  There are people who spend thousand of dollars on Candy Crush and Angry Birds and all online games,” she told Gulf News.

Candy Crush is even called “Crack Candy” because it is so addictive, Afridi said.
“The reason why people are getting so addicted is because these days they are using mobiles on the social networking platforms,” said Palija.

Friends listed on Facebook can help players with lives if they are not going to pay to proceed with the game.

Candy Crush also offers small unpredictable rewards, such as extra lives or “free Lollipop hammers”, which in this case are similar to trump candy that eliminates scores of other small candies in one hit.

“You have these small unpredictable rewards leading to a sort of highly engaged repetitive behaviour,” Afridi said. 

The principles of free online games, such as Candy Crush Saga, are similar to those of gambling and other addiction, she noted.  “It affects people’s social and occupational functioning in the end. They lose sleep; they lose money and ability to go out.  They don’t want to go out. It is constantly on their minds,” Afridi said.

The fact that Candy Crush Saga is free of violence, guns, shooting and adult material makes it more attractive to women than men, according to dealers and psychologists.