Bugs or Bugs By Design


CCS

Due to curiosity, the viral nature or just peer pressure, I have recently begun playing Candy Crush saga incessantly. Blame it on the engineer in me, but I immediately began looking for hacks, cheats and easier ways through the game.  Having found a couple of hacks in Candy Crush, I was initially thrilled, but then it made me wonder whether these were really bugs or were they bugs by design?

For those who have played Candy Crush Saga, you are familiar with the 5 lives you get. If you run out of those 5 lives, then you either need to wait for sometime to replenish your lives or you need to buy more lives. To solve for this, I found 2 workarounds:

1.     Play across multiple devices: If you have an iPhone and an iPad and have connected it to your facebook account, and if you run out of lives while playing on one device, simply open the game in the other device and voila!, you have all your lives back. This works across OS as well. What’s more, you can finish the lives across all your devices and then get 5 additional lives on the browser game.

I assumed this was a bug because the game cannot maintain a central server for lives spent. If they maintained a central server, they would not be able to allow for offline game play. Hence, it is maintained locally meaning it cannot sync between devices.

2.     Change system time: If you have run out of your lives, just advance your device system time by a few hours and your lives would be replenished.

Again, I assumed that this was a bug since the time needed to replenish lives was just maintained locally on the device and it was only looking at the last time and the current device time. It was not looking up a central time and hence changing system time would fool the game.

Now, here is why I doubt if these were actually bugs. Through these hacks, the user is essentially just prolonging the game play, albeit not paying the intended $0.99 to buy more lives. However, look at the pricing strategy of the game. There are 4 main ways that the game makes money

  1. At the end of each episode where you have to either buy your way to the next episode or get you facebook friends to give you tickets. The latter helps the game by potentially bringing in more paying users and the former is a direct way to make money which has no workaround.
  2. Buy additional lives when you run out of your fixed 5 lives. The bugs mentioned above are the ways you can bypass this constraint.
  3. Buy power-ups to help finish the level. These get more and more tempting as you get stuck in the games for longer and are more expensive than the above two.
  4. Buy 5 extra moves at the end of the game when you are so darn close to completion which also costs more than the first two.

Again, note that in the above 4 monetization methods, number 3 and 4 cost the maximum money.

Now, imagine that you played a particular level over 10 times and on the 12th time, you had just that one last jelly to crush (no doubt all you game players out there know the feeling), you would be so tempted to buy those 5 additional moves just to finish the game. After putting you in a predicament like this, would it matter to King.com whether you played the game 5 times on one device or 10 times on two devices? The smart game design ensures that you are brought so close to finishing the level that you would either pay for the additional moves or just go ahead and buy the power-ups to finish the level. And no matter what, I cannot seem to find any hacks around these two monetization methods.

So, it is really up for debate whether these are bugs or were they intentional. My guess would be that they were known issues in the game but were left as-is since they only go in the favor of the game play and bring the user even closer to making an additional larger transaction.

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