It all starts with a level you can beat within seconds. You slide three of the same color candy together and they burst. As those disappear you move on to find four more matches. It seems trivial, even boring or banal at first, but if you're not sucked in you're an anomaly. Successive levels pull you in with obstacles and challenges, all of which are based around that simple task of swiping and matching small pieces of candy.
Leah Kahn, 36, is one of those people who has been pulled in by the force of "Candy Crush Saga," playing the game at least five or more times a day on her iPhone. And she is one of many. According to King, the maker of the hugely popular game, 15.5 million people are crushing candy multiple times a day.
In the past couple of months the mobile game has become the most popular game on Facebook and among the top apps in the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store. According to King, the maker of the game, it's being played more than half a billion times a day on mobile just alone.
A Killer Social/Mobile Combination
The game, which was released for mobile phones in November 2012, has topped Zynga's Farmville 2 and other popular mobile games such as Texas HoldEm Poker, Bejeweled Blitz and Subway Sufers. But why? What is it about this game that's really no more than a simple puzzle game that has made it so popular? It's a combination of mobile and social elements, says the makers and experts.
"The core thing with Candy Crush is that it is available on multiple platforms, and ... there is the social side. It's something you can do with friends and family – that's something we see a lot of," Tommy Palm, King's Mobile Guru, told ABC News.
You can log in to the game with your Facebook account and not only does that sync your game progress across devices, but it allows you to see where your Facebook friends are in the plus-300 level game on a map. That's just the basic social integration, though. King has engineered the game to be all about social assistance. You get five lives per level. Once you run out you cannot advance to the next level unless you pay 99 cents or request extra lives from friends.
You'd think that might send people away from the game, but that part has added to the excitement of the game. "You can get more lives from Facebook, but that means having to wait for your friends to send them. That part can be a bit painful," Kahn said, adding that it also makes you continue to check to see if you've gotten access.
That's where the mobile aspect comes in. Palm says the game has become a "mobile phenomena" with people checking and playing the game multiple times a day on their phones. Kahn, like 10 million others playing on their phones, says she plays multiple times a day whether it is on her commute or at home. "It's a very great time passer. It makes the time go by very quickly," she says.
Oh, and It's Fun
But, of course, it is those social and mobile aspects built on top of an interesting and challenging puzzle-like game that has made it catch on.
"The human visual system is primed for pattern detection, which is a key component of this game," Heather Kikorian, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, told ABC News. With Candy Crush, that pattern- solving strategy is core and becomes more and more challenging as the game goes on.