Candy Crush Vs 2048: What makes them so addictive?

While doing my research on the candy crush phenomena I noticed that there were many entries on a new game, some heralding it as ‘The New Candy Crush Saga’. As I deleted candy crush I thought I would see what the fuss was about with this new game, and to see whether people will be ditching their old habit for this ‘newer model’ and if it will last.

What is 2048?

2048 is essentially a puzzle game where you must match the same numbered tiles on a board made up of 16 squares. The aim of the game is to add as many tiles as you can to get the biggest number. The game is over when there are either no more moves available and cannot match any more adjacent numbers, or you get the numbered tile 2048. Reading this back it seems like a difficult concept to grasp but once you start playing, what becomes apparent is the ease of learning difficulty and the quickness of play. It’s instinctual and every possible number combination gives a little spike of adrenaline and excitement (especially when you can see a combination which will yield a bigger result).

Add to this the addictive game mechanics (randomness, quick restart,) and we can start to see a clear picture of why many of us are becoming addicted to this style of game.

2048 and me


After the first couple of times playing I thought the game was ridiculous. It didn’t have the same graphical appeal of Candy Crush and I missed the unexpected explosive nature of play. I found myself thinking more about the moves without as much of a dopamine payoff. However something kept me coming back. Thinking back now the payoff is still there but in a more subtle way. When you enter into the mind-set of the game and its intricacies, you can get a different type of hit. The dopamine still secretes but you also feel a type of intellectual mastery which you do not get whilst playing Candy Crush. I felt that my every move influenced the board in a way Candy Crush never did. There is still an element of that in Candy Crush but it is more to do with the random pay-out generator the game decides to inflict on the board. 2048 gives you a sense of omnipotence and control that many games don’t allow you to feel. You are working within the game dynamics but you feel empowered by the extravagant sweeps of the tiles, from one side of the board to the other. The random tiles materialise but it feels at your discretion and they are easy to match as there are usually others of similar value to be found nearby. I found the matching of the smaller numbered tiles also gives you constant dopamine hits while you wait to match the bigger numbers. Also, because 2048 games lasts a matter of minutes when you do lose, you feel that you have only put a small amount of effort into the game. Therefore you don’t feel the same dejection you would feel when playing something with more substance (for example a game of chess)

Candy crush vs 2048

Right, we all have a (if somewhat vague) understanding of the gameplay dynamics of 2048 so I feel it’s time to discuss why so many of us are moving from Candy crush to 2048. There are many similarities and differences between the two games which may explain why many of us are moving onto 2048.

Firstly, the games are very similar, even though they look very different. It is, bluntly, matching tiles (whether numbered or coloured) to accomplish a task or goal. Candy Crush has lush 3D graphics with colourful tiles and explosive animations which look visually pleasing, whereas 2048 has extremely simplistic lines and numbers with almost black and white graphics.




Above you can see, both Candy Crush and 2048 have both similarities and differences in terms of when trying to keep people playing (in the flow channel). On the one hand they provide a challenge and perceived skill in order to offset boredom and anxiety, which leads to the gamer trying again. Where I feel both differ is that Candy Crush will inflict random events which have explosive results based on your actions. For example, one set of matched candies can produce random giving of power-ups or an unexpected mass exodus of candies. The game makes it seem like your skill is improving, further offsetting anxiety and boredom when in actuality, it is a part of the game mechanic to keep us hooked and provide us with a timely squirt of dopamine when the game thinks you need one. 2048, on the other hand, puts the player in the driver’s seat and asks them to take responsibility for their decisions, with less unexpected interactions from the game.
If we use the diagram supplied by Yuksichou, we can see that many of the core game mechanics are similar: for example, accomplishment, social influence and empowerment. Add to this, unpredictability (random additions of the low value tiles after every move), which can be seen in Candy Crush (and many gambling machines) and we have a clear picture why both these games have engrossed so many people.

However, there is the lack of levels in 2048 (linear empowerment on the diagram) and the lack of time restraint, which was introduced by Candy Crush (after you lose all of your lives, you must wait to restart). The extra involvement in the game adds depth and a new kind of involvement (story, levels, power-ups etc.) which is not found in 2048. Candy Crush has gone to a different level when creating a game mechanic which will engross its audience and keep them hooked (and spending more) for longer.


So it seems that other games are trying to take Candy Crushes crown in terms of becoming our latest addiction. It will be interesting to see what game mechanics are added, in the future, to keep us addicted for longer, and spending more money on ‘freemiun’ apps and games.

Philip Karahassan