Why 'Candy Crush Saga' is a moneymaking machine

The insanely popular app has 15 million daily players, stomping nearly every other mobile game. It's free but still brings big bucks to developer King.com.

By Kim Peterson May 31, 2013 2:18PM
Boy playing 'Candy Crush Saga' on an iPad (Hayley Louize Ballard/Alamy)
License: 2 years"Candy Crush Saga" tells you everything about where online gaming is headed.

If you haven't played it yet, consider yourself lucky. The game looks ridiculous, with its brightly colored candies that need to be combined into rows of three or more. But it's insanely addictive, with challenges that you are sure you could beat if you just played one more time. Thirty minutes later, you're still going.

The game is an absolute smash. It was the most downloaded game in April on both Google's (GOOG) Play and Apple's (AAPL) iOS platforms, according to GamesBeat. It's the No. 1 grossing game on Facebook (FB). It's one of the top five grossing portable games worldwide.

And its free.

So how can a free game be one of the top-grossing games worldwide? Therein lies the evil genius of "Candy Crush Saga" -- and the future of mobile gaming. It's what's known as a "freemium" game: free to download and play but with plenty of opportunities to buy in-game extras like the lollipop hammer that demolishes wayward jujubes.

Here's how "Candy Crush Saga" rakes in millions: It creates points of pain all along the game, pain that can be solved easily with a small purchase of 99 cents or more. Oof, you just lost a very hard level. But you can buy five extra moves for 99 cents. Or get three lollipop hammers for $1.99. And you'll eventually get timed out of the game for about 20 to 30 minutes, but you can buy more lives to keep playing.

And so developer King.com has created a free game that you truly can play for free the whole way through -- as I am trying to do -- but it's so much easier to pay a few bucks here and there to speed the process along.

And if you find this whole concept aggravating and offensive, get ready for more.

"Game design used to be about creating fun," screenwriter and gamer Eric Trueheart told the Los Angeles Times. "Now it's about creating frustration. Once upon a time, what people tried to do was design a game experience that would be fun and engaging all the way through. Now what they do is try to make a game that may be engaging for the first 30 minutes, then deliberately throw things in there that will slow the game down or make it frustrating unless you come up with that extra money."

King.com, by the way, is looking at an IPO. It doesn't disclose its finances, but its annual revenue is thought to have quadrupled in one year to about $500 million, reports The Telegraph.

More on moneyNOW

May 31, 2013 4:48PM
I was stuck on level 65 for about 3 months! It was frustrating! Finally got past it and I haven't spent a dime on buying the extras.....
May 31, 2013 4:10PM
I've been playing it for a couple weeks now. Haven't spent any money yet.
May 31, 2013 4:53PM
Been playing for a while.  On level 140.  I haven't spent a dime yet, but I've been tempted.
Jun 13, 2013 10:23AM
addicting is a understatment but after spendind 50.00 on all the extra moves which means 500 hundred credits the very next day after having used only 1/2 of them i have none left i am not happy and i will find out what happenend to the rest of them or is this just another scam if you dont use them you lose them? after thinking i have 243 left today i find i have none what happened to them.
May 31, 2013 8:16PM
Isn't anybody going to mention that absolutely bewitching music that gets inside your head and won't leave you alone for the rest of the day?
May 31, 2013 5:06PM
While I haven't spent any money on this game, I will admit to spending money on other games of this ilk. I too was stuck on level 65 like a lot of people on my Facebook list are/were. I personally play for a while then move on to something else.
May 31, 2013 7:36PM
May 31, 2013 8:59PM
Been playing since game started on level 104 never bought anything, and won't.
May 31, 2013 6:33PM
Lets not fail to mention the absolutely annoying marketing they've saturated on both tv, other apps, and internet websites. Thats enough of a nuisance to keep me off of the game.
Jan 8, 2014 4:40PM
RIP OFF!  the boosters don't show up half the time, and there is NOTHING you can do about it.  They steal your money, and laugh all the way to the bank.  PUT THEM OUT OF BUSINESS!  DON"T PLAY!
May 31, 2013 8:31PM
I've spent 5.00 but that's all they are getting off of me, yep I'm a sucker, lol
Jun 3, 2013 11:49AM
I'm on Level 82 and haven't spent a dime.
Aug 14, 2013 12:19PM
Research on cognitive processes behind the success of Candy Crush Saga: In-depth analysis of the underlying game attributes that lead to engagement and why CCS will never be an Angry Birds in terms of ultimate success:

Jun 3, 2013 6:56AM

We ruin our food supply with out of control GMO foods. We ruin our water supply with unsafe Fracking. We ruin our sports with PEDs. We ruin our sex lives with over-abundant internet porn. We ruin gaming with the proliferation of micro-transaction gaming.


(We ruin our country by electing........)

May 31, 2013 6:39PM
You have to pay $1.00 to play different episodes. I havent looked on their site for a truly free version but on FB and on the iPhone games you have to purchase all the episodes
Jun 3, 2013 9:39AM
I'm addicted to this game/app! I made a website with Tips and more information about Candy Crush.. Check it out: http://candy-crush-saga-tips-and-tricks.com/

Jul 2, 2013 7:25AM
Don't spend a lot of money in the game when stuck guys. I found a hack on http://www.candycrush-saga.net which gave me 99 lives and boosters. Now in level 351.. ;)
Jun 21, 2013 4:13AM
http://www.candycrush.nl because the other link was not working. Or just go directly... 
Jun 21, 2013 4:12AM
It is really hard but I found a nice cheat on www.candycrush.nl there you can buy once for €3 and always have enough lives and boosters. Saves me a lot of money... ;)
Please help us to maintain a healthy and vibrant community by reporting any illegal or inappropriate behavior. If you believe a message violates theCode of Conductplease use this form to notify the moderators. They will investigate your report and take appropriate action. If necessary, they report all illegal activity to the proper authorities.
100 character limit
Are you sure you want to delete this comment?


Copyright © 2014 Microsoft. All rights reserved.

Fundamental company data and historical chart data provided by Morningstar Inc. Real-time index quotes and delayed quotes supplied by Morningstar Inc. Quotes delayed by up to 15 minutes, except where indicated otherwise. Fund summary, fund performance and dividend data provided by Morningstar Inc. Analyst recommendations provided by Zacks Investment Research. StockScouter data provided by Verus Analytics. IPO data provided by Hoover's Inc. Index membership data provided by Morningstar Inc.

Trending NOW

What’s this?


[BRIEFING.COM] The stock market finished an upbeat week on a mixed note. The S&P 500 shed less than a point, ending the week higher by 1.3%, while the Dow Jones Industrial Average (+0.1%) cemented a 1.7% advance for the week. High-beta names underperformed, which weighed on the Nasdaq Composite (-0.3%) and the Russell 2000 (-1.3%).

Equity indices displayed strength in the early going with the S&P 500 tagging the 2,019 level during the opening 30 minutes of the action. However, ... More