This Day On The Street
Continue to site
ADVERTISEMENT
This account is pending registration confirmation. Please click on the link within the confirmation email previously sent you to complete registration.
Need a new registration confirmation email? Click here

Is Candy Crush Unethical?

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- In the spirit of full disclosure, I'm hooked on Candy Crush, the top grossing app in Apple's (AAPL - Get Report) App Store (as of this writing) and, as of last check, in the Google (GOOG - Get Report) Play apparatus.

Over at BloombergBusinessweek, Joshua Brustein wrote an article worth reading: How Freemium Products Use Our Brains Against Us.

Citing some compelling thought pieces, Brustein wonders, without taking a hardcore stand in either direction, if games such as Candy Crush use tactics questionable from an ethical standpoint to lure users into making in-app purchases. Simply put, Candy Crush mixes relatively easy levels with seemingly impossible ones to trigger our psychological impulses to pay 99 cents for more lives (instead of waiting like 20 minutes for them) or to skip past a difficult part of the game altogether.

Brustein even brings Pandora (P - Get Report) Internet radio into the picture:
Others, like Pandora, Spotify, and many gaming sites have opted instead for a freemium model that provides basic services without charge but demands that you fork over real money for the good stuff.
Human nature leaves users vulnerable to services that offer freebies up to a point, then begin demanding payment. It turns out that we are irrationally attached to goods and services we're already using.

Freemium services, as Brustein puts it, that make their paid products seem like necessary upgrades.

But, what's wrong with this? I don't quite see the ethical conundrum.

You want commercial-free music or no mobile listening cap, you pay $36 a year in lieu of hearing advertising that helps Pandora "pay its bills." Seems completely on the up-and-up to me. After all, it's part of what drives Sirius XM's (SIRI - Get Report) success.

After about two weeks of trying, I finally passed Level 29 on Candy Crush. I paid 99 cents, while bored on vacation, to get more lives, but I don't think I would ever pay a dollar to skip a level I couldn't beat. That goes against my principle of competitive spirit. But, again, isn't this the type of behavior games -- regardless of the medium -- should encourage? Users emotionally picking and choosing how to spend their entertainment dollar?

You have probably spent more money than logical on carnival games at the penny arcade to win a stuffed animal for your kid. Spend $25 squirting water into a target to move a duck along a course just to get Johnny a toy that probably retails for much less. It's not all that different from powering up on Candy Crush or splurging for no commercials on Pandora. There might be a slightly different psychological dynamic at work, but it all falls under the same -- or at least a similar -- umbrella.

At day's end, businesses exist to part their consumers -- or somebody -- from their money. We can blame this reality all we want, but, ultimately, it comes down to our individual flaws, particularly short attention spans, tried patience and the need for instant gratification.

-- Written by Rocco Pendola in Santa Monica, Calif.
Rocco Pendola is TheStreet's Director of Social Media. Pendola's daily contributions to TheStreet frequently appear on CNBC and at various top online properties, such as Forbes.

Check Out Our Best Services for Investors

Action Alerts PLUS

Portfolio Manager Jim Cramer and Director of Research Jack Mohr reveal their investment tactics while giving advanced notice before every trade.

Product Features:
  • $2.5+ million portfolio
  • Large-cap and dividend focus
  • Intraday trade alerts from Cramer
Quant Ratings

Access the tool that DOMINATES the Russell 2000 and the S&P 500.

Product Features:
  • Buy, hold, or sell recommendations for over 4,300 stocks
  • Unlimited research reports on your favorite stocks
  • A custom stock screener
Stocks Under $10

David Peltier uncovers low dollar stocks with serious upside potential that are flying under Wall Street's radar.

Product Features:
  • Model portfolio
  • Stocks trading below $10
  • Intraday trade alerts
14-Days Free
Only $9.95
14-Days Free
Dividend Stock Advisor

David Peltier identifies the best of breed dividend stocks that will pay a reliable AND significant income stream.

Product Features:
  • Diversified model portfolio of dividend stocks
  • Updates with exact steps to take - BUY, HOLD, SELL
Trifecta Stocks

Every recommendation goes through 3 layers of intense scrutiny—quantitative, fundamental and technical analysis—to maximize profit potential and minimize risk.

Product Features:
  • Model Portfolio
  • Intra Day Trade alerts
  • Access to Quant Ratings
Options Profits

Our options trading pros provide over 100 monthly option trading ideas and strategies to help you become a well-seasoned trader.

Product Features:
  • Actionable options commentary and news
  • Real-time trading community
SYM TRADE IT LAST %CHG
AAPL $121.30 0.00%
GOOG $625.61 0.00%
P $17.52 0.00%
SIRI $3.96 0.00%
FB $94.01 0.00%

Markets

Chart of I:DJI
DOW 17,689.86 -56.12 -0.32%
S&P 500 2,103.84 -4.79 -0.23%
NASDAQ 5,128.2810 -0.5040 -0.01%

Free Reports

Top Rated Stocks Top Rated Funds Top Rated ETFs