Social Media’s New Addiction: Candy Crush Saga

By Shawn Dwyer 11/26/13

Game has a grip on millions thanks to endless levels and random rewards.

Just another Bejeweled?
Photo via Candy Crush

With more than 46 million users every month, Candy Crush Saga has become one of Facebook’s most popular – and addictive – social media games of all time, surpassing former champ FarmVille and rivaling the runaway hit Angry Birds.

Over 500 million installations across Facebook, Android, and iOS have been reported since its launch back in April 2012. That would mean 1 in every 23 Facebook users play the game. Manufactured by the Stockholm-based company, King, estimates have concluded that revenues top $875,000 per day – an astonishing number given the fact that Candy Crush is free. But players wanting to gain extra lives or advance to deeper levels have gladly forked over hundreds and even thousands of dollars, while some even reported that they ignored friends and family or can think of nothing else but playing. And that's all thanks to a simple, even ingenious compulsion loop design that combines easy access, random rewards, and a never-ending stack of levels.

But is Candy Crush or any other social media game truly an addiction like drugs or alcohol? According to Sudhir Kale, a professor at Bond University and gaming expert, they are. “The brain starts secreting dopamine, the same when someone’s doing cocaine or recreational drugs. The effect is the same.” But he was quick to point out that only a small number of people actually become addicted to games like Candy Crush.  “That does not happen to every person,” he added. “Not everyone who gambles is a problem gambler, only one per cent is pathological.”

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Shawn Dwyer is a writer, editor and content producer living in Los Angeles. You can find him on Linkedin.