It's not gambling but it might be even better – for the house that is! One report (http://tinyurl.com/lo2ct9n) estimates that Candy Crush makes $850,000 every day from clicks amounting to .99 to $1.99 each. Like I said, it's not gambling but it is addictive – and profitable.
Companies like Zynga and King Digital market “free” games around the world and their games are top sellers in App stores. Zynga also offers a “play money” poker app that is a far cry from the professional software produced by PokerStars but gives the player a decent gambling experience without any of the financial risk.
No one is naive enough to assume that these companies are in it to entertain the public. They are in it for the bucks and they have proven business plans that seem to be working although the public is fickle and often tires of games over time. The companies constantly introduce new games and new challenges, hoping for more big hits like Candy Crush and Words With Friends.
I'm not against these games. In fact, I play them myself. But to unwary, unconscious gamers, things can get out of hand quickly, especially when one mouse click or screen tap starts to cost money.
The challenge of games like Candy Crush is to move ahead to higher and more difficult levels. Doing so earns you . . . well, it doesn't earn you anything tangible really. It does earn you esteem, self-esteem and even peer esteem if you play via Facebook or another social network. You get a great deal of pleasure out of succeeding and if you are patient and persistent, you can succeed without it costing you a dime. Unfortunately, most people ($850,000 worth per day apparently) aren't patient and are willing to spend a dollar for five more chances at making that last connection needed to clear the board.
On Zynga you are allowed to play No Limit Hold'em for free. When you sign up you are given a ration of free money to play with. If you are a decent player you never have to reload. Those of us who have been around poker tables in real life and online know, however, that most players just aren't that good. Soon enough they run out of money and have to visit the ATM. Zynga has provisions for that and for a small amount ($4.99 say) of real currency, you can purchase about a million and a half dollars worth of play money – play money that has no value anywhere else but will buy you back into the game so you can go All-In as often as you want.
It's entertainment, I know. Who am I to begrudge the public a form of entertainment? I wouldn't do that. What I will do though is advise players to be aware of what they are doing. A .99 cent click on Candy Crush is nothing for most people but doing that 500 times suddenly is something. Playing cards with abandon because you have a treasure trove of newly purchased fake dollars can easily foster bad habits when the money is real. Without being anti-poker or anti-gambling, which I definitely am not, I advise strongly against creating bad habits and false impressions that may come back to haunt you later on. Eyes open, all the time, wide, wide open.
Corporate conglomerates run the world, the Illuminati notwithstanding – oops, maybe the suits ARE the keepers of the one-eyed pyramid! Online games, especially those that are at our fingertips on our cellphones and other mobile devices, are enticing, alluring, addictive and often fun. The board room guys know that and they have ingeniously created a way to introduce everyone who plays these games to the world of chance, variance, randomization, luck, skill, and competition. The stakes are small at first. Some might say "the first “hit” is free" if you are familiar with that environment. But that can change quickly.