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Candy Crush Monetization and Virality | Trausti Kristjansson's Blog

What can app developers learn from Candy Crush?Screen Shot 2013-09-29 at 12.28.09 PM

 I spent a Saturday afternoon “studying” Candy Crush and taking heaps of screenshots and found the monetization and social features to be fascinating.

The game Candy Crush is a lot of fun and really addictive. It’s so addictive that I wouldn’t recommend trying it if you have any other commitments that day! People that get addicted have been known to waste substantial amounts of money on it.

The interesting thing about Candy Crush from an app developer’s perspective is it’s use of social media and it’s monetization strategy: WAIT, SOCIALIZE or PAY or WaSP for short.


CC is very similar to Bejeweled, which is one of the most successful games of all time. CC goes a few steps beyond Bejeweled in making the game addictive and does an admirable job of adding the social component to the game. As a side effect the game is more fun and supremely viral. CC includes a number of social interactions and cues:

  • Your friend’s position in the game is shown on the map of Candy Land [screenshot].
  • Your friend’s high scores and their pictures appears at the bottom of the screen [screenshot].
  • You can invite friends to join [screenshot].
  • You can ask your Facebook friends for lives! [screenshot]
  • You can give lives to your friends (in theory: the functionality was broken) [screenshot] [screenshot]
  • Not only does it give you a score, but CC identifies which friend’s score you have beaten [screenshot] and gives you an option brag about it to them [screenshot].

The essence of these interactions are:

  • Camaraderie
  • Invitiation/Inclusion
  • Receiving
  • Giving
  • Friendly Competition

The competitive aspects of Candy Crush are not applicable to non-game apps. However, if an app has in-app purchases, Facebook invitations and giving and receiving of items via Facebook should be directly applicable.

We at Rubber Duck Labs make an app that allow users to purchase sound packs through in-app-purchases. Giving users the option of sharing these purchases with friends could be a really fun idea.


Candy Crush relies on in-app-purchases of a few items for monetization:

  • More lives.
  • A few more moves to complete a level.
  • Items to help complete a level such as lollypops and fish that eat candy.

WaSP – Wait, Socialize or Pay:

Socialize or Pay

Wait, Socialize or Pay – WaSP

CC uses a bizzarre and fascinating ploy to get a user to pay for more lives. Once the user has used up all lives, the user has three options:

  • Wait for an increasing amount of time until they can play again.
  • Ask for lives via facebook.
  • Pay!

The timeout seems like a risky strategy since it risks loosing customers. On the other hand, it might prevent users from overdosing on the game and giving it up.

It would be fascinating to see the  statistics for how people behave when confronted with this choice. The main questions on my mind are:

  • How many people ask friends for lives?
  • How many people pay for more lives?
  • How many people never come back?

What did you do when you ran out of lives?

Virality Boost: asking for a life:

When a user runs out of lives, she can wait, pay or ask a friend for a life. The process that that friend has to go through is:

  1. The friend gets a facebook request to download the app [screenshot].
  2. Then the user has to play one level,
  3. and only then do they get the request for the life [screenshot].
  4. They then need to send a life via Facebook.

In my case, the life was not delivered. I assume this is due to a bug in their code.

Warning: SPAM!

Diceptive dialog.

Deceptive dialog.

When the user asks a friend for a life via Facebook,  CC shows a dialog asking for permission to post to friends [screenshot]. When I saw this, I thought CC needed this permission to ask a friend for a new life on my behalf.

However, CC used this to spam all my friends that I was using CC!! The post is concealed from me as it did not appear on my own Facebook timeline or in my feed. I only found out when a friend liked the post. This was embarrassing.

By doing this, CC betrayed my trust and I promptly deleted the Candy Crush from Facebook and my iPhone. However, the post was still there on my friend’s feed [screenshot].

Take Aways:

We at Rubber Duck Labs make video creation apps where the user can play sound effects to catch a child’s attention. We allow users to purchase sound packs through in-app-purchases.

Wait:  Since we make video creation apps the idea of making our users wait to record a video would not fly! However, we have already incorporated the Wait strategy into our app. Users can play a set number previews of the sound effect items. When the previews are used up, the user can pay to unlock all the sounds, or wait until the next day to continue. Users can continue to use the basic set of sounds and use all other features such as the “PVR for real life” feature, adding badges as well as composing and sharing videos.

Socialize: In our case, sharing of videos via Facebook gives a bit of virality. However, we could learn from Candy Crush here.  Giving users the option of giving a friend a set of sound effects is a fun idea that our users would enjoy.

A final word: We take the privacy of our users very seriously. We would not betray our users trust by spamming about their activity on Facebook. However, in other respects, we can learn a lot from Candy Crush.

Screen shots:

Here is a collection of screenshot depicting the various aspects of the WaSP strategy. The images were anonymized using Facepixelizer.


Candy Land mapPlayFriendsAtBottom_censoredCandyCrunchRequestAfterInstall_censoredCandyCrushHighScoreBeat_censoredCandyCrunchInviteFriends_censoredCandyCrunchMessageCenter_censoredCandyCrushSendLives_censoredCandyCruchInvite_censoredCandyCrunchHighscoreBeatWriteOnWall_censoredCandyCrushAskFriendsForLife_censoredCandyCrushFBPrivacySettings_censored  CandyCrushTimelineSpam_censoredCandyCrushStuck_censored



7 Comments » for Candy Crush Monetization and Virality
  1. tlarkworthty says:

    tlarkworthy points out:

    You missed an important viral driver. You can’t play beyond level X without friend recommendations or paying for the privilege.
    That feature annoyed the hell out of me but its certainly been beneficial for the popularity of the game. I stopped playing it at that point

  2. DT says:

    What a great article on your observation of Candy Crush. Ahh, I was also admiring Candy Crush’s success for the past couple days and spent some time “studying” it. There’s definitely a lot to learn from the success of that app. Thanks for the article write up loved reading another person’s perspective on it.!

  3. Trausti says:

    Thanks DT! Appreciate that!

  4. zefcan says:

    Here’s a few of my thoughts, it doesn’t cover everything, but to me these are some of the important ones from a game design POV…
    As a game designer when I first saw Candy Crush I thought it was a pretty average game. However after playing it I realized that it has a very clever underlying design that appeals to the various psychological needs of casual players. It also provides an experience that is in a way, quite similar to gambling.
    First off it’s extremely simple to play, tap to swap two candies. Can’t see one to swap? It will show you an available swap after a little bit. There’s a bit of skill involved in choosing which candies to swap, which gives the player some sense of control, but the game is mostly based on luck and often some levels can’t be won (unless of course you have money to spend on in-app purchases if you can afford it…).
    After a swap, candies will fall down to replace those that disappeared and often a combo will happen. There’s heaps of positive, juicy reinforcement when something big like this happens. Lots of bright animations and a voice that says things like “Nice”.
    The goal is simple, complete the level and move on to the next. Each level is different, providing new and interesting challenges. Some are harder than others based on the design of the level, but these are interlaced with easy ones in order provide a relief from the difficult ones.
    Also, some of the levels are ridiculous, as in ‘this-level-will-take-days-of-attempts-to-complete’ ridiculous. And this is simply because some levels can’t be complete with the set of candies provided. This is super frustrating, and it’s a gamble as to when you’ll complete the level, however once you do complete it, your sense achievement is incredible. This ties in to the concept of Fiero in game design (read more here: Of course you can shortcut this process using IAPs to buy super candies. These candies won’t just beat the level automatically, you still have to use them correctly and this involves some skill, but they do help in fast tracking it. (On a side note I’m personally against IAPs that provide shortcuts in games for those with money as I feel it’s unfair to those who don’t have the money, however it is a very popular strategy for making money these days).
    Finally, throw in some social competition via Facebook so you can compare progress to your friends and then you’re set to rake in 500,000 euros a day apparently :)(
    TLDR; really easy to play, clear goals, lots of juicy feedback, a sense of challenge, ability to shortcut using IAP, social competition.

    Another great resource is to check out which discusses interfaces crafted to trick users.
    Not all design like this is meant to be manipulative and evil, and you can pick up some great tips on designing engaging interfaces from Stephen Anderson’s excellent work in this area:

    • Trausti says:

      That’s really insightful! Truthfully, I didn’t focus on the addictiveness of the gameplay itself, since we don´t currently develop games. Thank you!

  5. Jenns says:

    any estimation of the slow down of Candy Crush in earning potential before they come out with yet another highly addictive game to take it’s place?

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