Now that I have that first sentence out of the way and guaranteed to show up on the Facebook post for people that don’t click through to my blog, I can explain what has brought me to that sentence. What has me abandoning a game that I played the heck out of for the better part of three months?
First of all, for the most part it is a great game. The developer has done some truly unique things with the Match-3 formula that has been around for years. I continue to see a new concept and think, “Wow… that is brilliant.” But it is how they embrace microtransactions, a relatively new concept in gaming, that truly bothers me.
Like many other free Facebook or mobile-based games, you can only play so much at a time. In Candy Crush Saga, when you fail 5 times, you are done. Each of your “lives” will regenerate 30 minutes after it was lost. Or, a Facebook friend can send you another one (seemingly randomly). Or, and this is why the game is free, you can purchase additional lives.
I have pretty strong willpower when it comes to these free games. I don’t fall into the microtransaction trap and end up buying additional lives or power-ups. I may get upset when my life gauge hits zero, but I never have the urge to spend money to play some more. I can take a break and come back later to a fresh pile of lives, no problem.
However, the breaking point for me in Candy Crush Saga is in the randomness. The initial placement of your candies on the board is completely random, as is the addition of candies to the board when you clear some out. As such, it is entirely possible that you will get a game board that is impossible to beat. On some of the levels past 100, this will happen quite often. Several times I have lost 3 of my 5 lives to impossible candy arrangements.
Normally, I would not have a problem with this. I understand randomness. I’ve played other games that have random elements that can lead to unsolvable puzzles. As a life-long gamer, I’m cool with this. What I’m not cool with is a game repeatedly throwing impossible scenarios at me and then asking for real money to try again. This model is clearly working for them, but it crosses a line and doesn’t work for me. However, the line here is a fuzzy one. If the pop-up said I could pay $10 and unlock unlimited lives, basically buying the game in full, I would likely do it in a heartbeat. I truly enjoy playing the game. But, it’s the “Pay $1, Get 1 More Try” model combined with the possibility of randomly getting a board that is literally impossible to beat that breaks it for me. I can’t support that, even if I’m playing for free and not actually supporting them.