Why People Pay Real Money in Video Games: The Candy Crush Chronicle

For those who have not heard of the new, popular mobile phone game, Candy Crush, allow me enlighten you.


Under its heartwarming exterior lies a scene of dark psychological persuasion. It is both a game and an addiction. Though I have never personally played Candy Crush, I have seen it take hold of those near and dear to me. The land of Candy Crush is the place where social interactions go to die. People become so involved in the game to the point that I feel as though I’ve befriended zombies.

I understand that people become rather addicted to video games, but what leads people to spend real money for in game power-ups such as lollipops and who knows what other kind of odd sugary paraphernalia. This abnormal rational has even led to blogs being dedicated to confessing how much one has spent on in-game purchases (See Below).


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This question of what leads people to spend absurd amounts of real money on in-game purchases draws parallels to why brides spend so much on a wedding dress when they will only wear it once. It is merely a matter of emotional investment into the situation. The bride is so emotionally invested into her ideal storybook wedding dress that she may not be making rational purchasing decisions. The same goes for Candy Crushers (Yes, this is now a term for those who partake in the game). They let emotions of anger and frustration towards certain levels overwhelm their economic rationale. Though a lot has been said about the consumer end of this game, I will also quickly examine the video game makers economic rationale.

King, the company that makes Candy Crush, is nothing short of brilliant. They entice people to play this fun new game and its 100% free to download. The first levels are supposedly quite easy and hook the player. Once a certain level of commitment and traction has been hit by the player, the levels become more and more difficult until they no longer enjoy the game and begin to experience frustration. By having people get addicted to beating these levels and imposing a negative conditioning stimulus, people are inclined to pay for these in-game purchases to progress in the game. Thus, by offering a free game and playing with emotions, King has built a revenue powerhouse of a game. This makes total economic sense for them and this brilliant scheme explains why consumers act irrationally.

[Note: I realize this may have been a heavy analysis on baffling behavior as opposed to a tangible object]


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7 Responses to Why People Pay Real Money in Video Games: The Candy Crush Chronicle

  1. phillels says:

    I have often wondered this too. Your explanation reminds me of Dr. V. Tremblay’s example of how to start a heroine business. Give away the product until they’re hooked (demand becomes more inelastic), and then start charging them.

  2. mcneiljo says:

    I have to admit that I am completely hooked on Candy Crush. But i have my limits. I have maybe spent 10 dollars on the game which in my opinion is more than I should have spent. It is a ridiculous yet genius concept. Your last sentence explains it perfectly. And the first comment about the heroin addiction is spot on. People can’t just simply stop playing after they have gotten so far. The social aspect of it also drives people to keep playing. You can see where your facebook friends are in the game and once you see that they are farther than you, you want to try to catch up to them. That helps rationalize their behavior, or that’s what they tell themselves. “I just need to catch up with so-and-so and then I’ll quit” 30 dollars later and they are still trying to catch up are pull ahead even more. I applaud this company even though my wallet does not.

  3. jonesnol says:

    I understand the app market is growing exponentially with all the new and creative ways we are able to utilize technology. These games are by far the most demanded and do draw in users to believe success in the game is more important than doing the dishes or reading that extra chapter of homework. I like this topic because it touches on the idea of spending money electronically and not realizing the extent an individual may actually be spending on such a trivial pursuit.

  4. Junwei Zhang says:

    OMG~~ I just purchased MLB 2K11 last night. It offered me 30 minutes trial. After 30 minutes’ trial and 30 minutes’ struggle in my mind, I decided to purchase it.
    Now I regret, because it took me too much time and it couldn’t be refunded. They hooked me really hard. You are right. And I learned from that if you wanna get a fish, you need to sacrifice a shrimp.

  5. hondoh says:

    I wouldn’t consider myself a hardcore gamer, but from a gamer’s perspective, I think that this new trend of using microtransactions to fund games is terrible. It gives game developers incentives to stray from the traditional goals of making great games such as replayability. They now instead focus on creating and marketing their microtransaction products. I know a lot of people who play League of Legends and they have been complaining about the fact that the developers have been busy making cosmetic items, for customizing the appearance of characters in the game, rather than balancing it.

  6. Pingback: 7 People Who Have Spent Insane Amounts of Cash on Candy Crush (Yes, it's an Addiction!) | Dailyooh.com

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