Sorry, Candy Crush, I Turned Off In-App Purchases (Goodbye Lollipop Hammers)
The twins got to go to Apple camp this year — a two-day free computer camp held in the Apple store. While they were learning how to make movies, the parents got a class on parental restrictions. Imagine my glee when I learned that I could turn off in-app purchases on my phone, effectively ending those tempting pop-up offers from Candy Crush asking if I wanted to purchase extra moves, lives, or lollipop hammers. I’ve yet to spend a dollar on the game, but even I don’t have an iron-clad will. It’s really hard to say “no” during those times when I’m stuck on a level for days (my last one was level 125 — that was a killer). I could see myself buying a few extra moves if I was a few steps away from clearing the board.
So I stopped it.
No more options for chattering teeth to eat through the licorice.
[If you want to do this on your device, go into settings, choose restrictions, set a pass code that is different from your phone’s pass code, and then scroll down to turn off in-app purchases. In the same place, I also switched over iTunes to require a password for every single purchase instead of allowing unlimited purchases for 15 minutes once I put in my password. There are also dozens of other limitations you can set in that area.]
My friend sent me an article the very next day about how Candy Crush parts you with your money that riffs off of the original post on Gamasutra. It’s not exactly rocket science. Offer to sell someone 5 extra moves before the game begins, and they likely won’t take it. Offer to sell them 5 extra moves for a paltry 99 cents when they can clearly see that they’re 2 moves away from winning, and they’ll reason that 99 cents is still less than a cup of coffee, and the purchase will allow them to move on with the game.
See, easy as taking candy.
In-app purchases also means that you’re so far removed from seeing your money float out of your hand. The money is deducted from your iTunes account, and even that barely feels like real money (even though it is). I mean, it’s a code on a gift card and it’s numbers and it’s the immediacy of the purchase. All I have to do is click a button; I don’t even have to open a wallet. I’ve already felt that danger with iBooks, purchasing new books instantaneously and starting to read them seconds later from the comfort on my living room. So I didn’t need an article telling me just how dangerous in-app purchases could be. I’m not particularly worried about the Wolvog and ChickieNob — I’m worried about myself.
Of course, the part about it being more of a money game than a skill game is also interesting, considering how often I get stuck. Perhaps I just like this point because it allows me to still see myself as intelligent; I’m just at the mercy of a game that is trying to get me to purchase a booster.
Early game play maps can be completed by almost anyone without spending money, and they slowly increase in difficulty. This presents a challenge to the skills of the player, making them feel good when they advance due to their abilities. Once the consumer has been marked as a spender (more on this later) the game difficulty ramps up massively, shifting the game from a skill game to a money game as progression becomes more dependent on the use of premium boosts than on player skills.
See, it’s not me. It’s them.
There was no a-ha moment reading that article; simply a lot of head nodding, especially when it said that “King.com was generous enough to point out that their target demographic for CCS is middle aged women. 80% of their players are women, only 34% of their players are under the age of 30, and only 9% are under the age of 21.”
In other words… me.
Which made me doubly glad that the Apple store taught me how to turn off in-app purchases.
I am sure that game programmers will only get smarter, figuring out go-arounds for all the safety nets that other software creators put in place. But for now, no matter how much I want 5 extra moves, I cannot get 5 extra moves. I know because I tested it, clicking on the button and smiling hugely when it told me that the purchase failed.
And if you were wondering how lucrative in-app purchases can be, Candy Crush brings in $633,00 per day. I am obviously in the wrong profession.