I’ve recently come across this free Willy Wonka-esque mobile game called Candy Crush. It wasn’t the game mechanics that got to me (it’s basically a souped up Bejeweled clone), rather it was how it got on my radar and even retained me as a player. Heck, I’ve even paid the piper and bought a few lives to extend my play.
What intrigued me is how it’s scaling; there are certainly a lot of things the game is doing right. When you see the theories you read about put into practice like they’ve done here, it’s really something else. Let’s have at it then.
Build upon a solid, existing product or idea.
The Bejeweled game mechanic is more than a decade old in my estimate and I’m pretty sure everyone has played it at one point or another. Candy Crush built upon that idea and added challenges like matching tiles at certain areas of the board to pop jellies or moving ingredients from the top of the board down to the chute at the bottom.
If it was a standalone casual game, I’d probably play it since the gameplay itself is solid. It’s enough of a challenge that you’ll play it over and over without feeling the need to invite friends and nag them. But because of the solid gameplay, I’d be willing to bet that my friends would also love playing it so I’ll probably be mentioning it when I chat with friends (provided it comes up organically that is).
Make social part of the product and not just an afterthought.
Every game out there in the app stores tries to be social but I think Candy Crush really gets how to do social. Yes, it does make it quite obvious that logging into Facebook has its perks but you’re not required to do so and if you’re good, you can actually carry on without seeing a single friend in the game.
I myself was just bothered by not having a pic in my game token which was why I connected to Facebook, but there are a couple more ways the game entices you to connect.
First, you’ll be hooked by curiosity. It’s likely you heard about the game from a friend and when playing a level, its teaser is that connecting to Facebook will show you the progress of your friends in the game. Everybody likes to see how they measure up against their friends, right?
So when you connect, you’ll see your friends high scores (and try to beat them) as well as where they are in the candy map (and try to catch up to them). And even though you’re not actively playing with them, the sense of a shared struggle especially with people in the same level as you give a small sense of camaraderie.
The other more selfish reason is that you can ask for lives from your friends.
Give something valuable in game in exchange for something of value from the user.
Unlike most casual games, Candy Crush limits the number of times you can play a level. If you’re really an excellent player, you won’t need to retry but folks like me and you will probably fail at a level more often than not.
That’s okay since playing for several hours straight is not only bad for you, it’s also bad for your phone’s battery. You get a new life every 30 minutes anyway, so just do something else to while away the time. But of course, the game is so addictive that you’ll want to play another round right away and for junkies, the game gives you a way to feed your need.
Candy Crush has a somewhat crafty invite system. You actually can ask friends for lives but what you’re actually doing is asking them to sign up (from what I’ve figured, you can’t ask lives from people who already play the game). It’s a lucrative incentive to share, especially when you’re in the flow of the game and need an immediate fix.
Another way to do it is to buy lives, but I’m sure that falls second to the sharing. After all, what they want is lots of players to buy not just lives, but the other power-ups in the game. It’s also a way to give people an additional option to get lives, especially those not likely to share.
Indulge in your in-app world.
I hated the candy graphics but over time, I grew into it. To be honest, clashing colors and gaudy fonts aren’t for me but if you want to really to sell your story, you have to go all in. Let users into your world and don’t be half assed about it. They might not like it and might be turned off but hey, it’s part of the game. I’d probably be more turned off if it didn’t have a theme at all or if the theme didn’t make sense like a jungle or space background.
What did I learn from Candy Crush?
So here are my takeaways from playing the game:
- Your product has to be good and should fit your target audience well whether it’s bored office workers or busy entrepreneurs.
- Your product is more social than you think. If it fosters competition, cooperation or communication, baking in social will help you scale it faster.
- Conversely, don’t force social if it’s not in the DNA of your product.
- Quid pro quo. If you want them to share your product socially, be upfront and give something in return.
- For consumer products like apps, monetization takes a backseat to scaling users.Of course you should offer a way for them to pay for the service but don’t make people pay unless they see the value in doing so.
- Get users to see your viewpoint and change their minds about your product by immersing them fully into the experience.