Candy Crush Player Claims He Was Duped out of Extra Lives

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Sep 2, 2017

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GamesA judge in Illinois has rejected an attempt to dismiss a claim by a consumer who claims he was fooled into encouraging his friends to play Candy Crush Saga.

The ruling was reported by the Chicago Tribune.

Candy Crush (for those who have been living under rocks and/or don’t have smartphones) is a game played on mobile devices. It’s a puzzle-matching game in which players try to line up three or more of the same icons.

About 250 million people have played the game at least once.

Players start the game with five “lives.”  They can gain an additional free life every 30 minutes, up to a total of five.

Players who use this method to gain lives must wait 30 minutes to play the game again once they’ve used up all of their lives.

The game has been described as “addictive,” and some players can’t stand to wait the 30 minutes.  So there are (or were) two other ways for players to resume play sooner:

  • buy additional lives with in-app purchases (five for 99 cents), or
  • link a Candy Crush account to a Facebook account, which let players request and receive “donated lives” from friends.

If friends haven’t yet installed Candy Crush on their devices, they’re prompted to do so.

Free Marketing

As the judge’s ruling notes, the donation option allows the game company “to pass on marketing costs to consumers.” Plaintiff Zachery Liston began playing Candy Crush on his iPhone in 2012.  When he ran out of lives, he’d ask his Facebook friends for more.  Some of his friends installed the app and donated lives to him.

However, when Liston exited the game and then returned later, he found that the donated lives had disappeared.  Other Candy Crush players reported the same issue on internet forums.

King, the game company, had apparently changed the game to remove the donated lives, without telling players this would happen.

Class Action

Liston sued King, claiming violations of the federal Computer Fraud and Abuse Act and implied breach of contract.

He also sought to represent the class of all other players in the U.S. who lost their donated lives — an estimated 25 million people. King tried to dismiss the claims, claiming that Liston “played Candy Crush for free, received the additional donated lives for free, and never purchased anything from King,” and thus suffered no injury that the law recognizes.

Liston responded that he had suffered injuries because he was deprived of lives he had earned and wasn’t compensated for social marketing of Candy Crush.

Economic Value

In refusing to dismiss the case, the court stated: 

The complaint alleges, plausibly enough, that Candy Crush lives have actual economic value; they are available for purchase at a particular price and King compensates players for marketing the game by facilitating the receipt of Donated Lives. King’s argument that an asset that it is able to sell for 20 cents has no inherent value is untenable; that the game provides a mechanism by which players may also receive such assets for free in exchange for activities that King values does not change that basic fact. The complaint alleges that there is a market price for additional lives, and that claim is corroborated by the fact that King itself sells additional lives in the open market. Accepting that allegation as true for purposes of this motion, as required, Liston plainly has standing to complain of the loss of those assets by means of King’s conduct—whether that conduct is labeled as fraud, theft, conversion, or is described by some other legal theory. 

The case is Liston vs., Ltd. and it is now proceeding to trial.

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