Alex Dale, a senior executive at Candy Crush Saga developer King, told a UK House of Commons select committee that approximately 3.4 percent or 9.2 million users spend “three or more hours a day” playing the game, and that one player spent an astonishing $2,600 on microtransactions within the app in a 24-hour period last year, but steadfastly denied that some people are addicted to it, according to the Guardian.
That 9.2 million is out of Candy Crush Saga’s staggering player base of 270 million, but to put it in another context, it is a bigger number than the number of people living in each but the top 10 states by population size (2017 census numbers). Dale thinks this is all well and good and that these people are happy doing what they’re doing, according to the Guardian.
“Among 270 million players we have between two and three contacts a month from people concerned about having spent too much money or time on the game,” Dale told members of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee (DCMS). “It is a very, very small number who spend or play at high levels. When we speak with to them they say they are happy with what they are doing.”
He added that many of those people may be older or currently in circumstances which preclude many other uses of their time, the Guardian wrote:
Dale said of the 270 million players, 3.4% (9.2 million) play for three or more hours a day, while 0.16% (432,000) play for six or more. He said the average player – the core market is women aged 35 and over – plays for 38 minutes a day. Defending the numbers, Dale pointed out that the many players were from demographics that had “plenty of time on their hands”, including older people and those convalescing.
“Excessive time, it is very difficult to know what excessive is,” he said. “We have a fair number of people in their 60s, 70s and 80s playing Candy Crush,” he said. “We do want people to play more. There are going to be people that like to play our games a lot.”
Dale also told MPs the player who spent $2,600 on Candy Crush Saga microtransactions in one day was making a “rational decision” because there was a sale on at the time and the player used them over a seven-month period. (That’s still about $370 a month on Candy Crush Saga, by the way.) According to the Guardian, Dale responded to MP inquiries as to whether it planned on operating differently after the World Health Organization recognized “gaming disorder” last year—a contentious decision that attracted no shortage of dissenting opinion in the medical community—by saying King would “look at the whole area again but we have done it before and [players] didn’t like it.”
Candy Crush Saga is an immensely lucrative business, with King raking in over $1.5 billion dollars in revenue from the series 2018, according to Variety. Players spent approximately $4.2 million a day on average through the two major app stores, Google Play and the iOS App Store.
Members of Parliament have also gone on the offensive against Epic Games and its massively popular Fortnite, demanding information on how long users spend playing it. (Fortnite is also free to play and relies on microtransactions to make money, but it removed randomized loot boxes earlier this year amid controversy over whether they constitute gambling.)
On the one hand, it certainly does not seem healthy to spend three hours a day playing Candy Crush Saga, and microtransactions are infamous for ruining consumer experiences and acting as a thinly veiled way to nickel-and-dime users all the way to “Wait, how much?”-town. On the other, this is the same Tory-controlled British government that is leading a charge against online porn with a patently ridiculous scheme to force all porn sites to implement useless age-verification systems and has cheerleaded sweeping internet regulation policies critics say could result in widespread censorship, and this kind of bears all the hallmarks of a classic moral panic.
So it’s kind of hard to pick a side here, beyond please find a better hobby than playing Candy Crush Saga three hours a day, like scrolling through Wikipedia until your eyes wither or binge-watching the same shows on Netflix over and over.