Candy Crush is wildly popular mobile game app, by some measures more popular than Twitter. It was created by King, a conglomerate of leading interactive entertainment companies for the mobile world. In December 2013, Candy Crush had an average of 93 million daily active users. In the fourth quarter of that years, Candy Crush gamers played over one billion games per day.
In 2013, Candy Crush grossed an estimated $1.9 billion for King. This massive revenue came from “In-App Purchases”—transactions where a player pays money for virtual items that can be used in the Candy Crush game.
For example, players start with five lives and are awarded a free life every thirty minutes, up to a limit of five. Players who have used up their five lives must wait thirty minutes until they can play again. However, because the game is addictive, players often don’t want to wait. In that case, they can but five “extra lives” for $.99. They can also link the game to their Facebook account and ask their friends for “donated lives”.
The purchased or donated lives are then saved in a virtual account for the player’s future use. Each player’s account thus holds items with a cash value. For example, if a player has five lives in her account, the account holds assets worth $.99.
The complaint alleges that in or around 2013, King began unilaterally removing lives from players’ accounts. This removal was done without the players’ prior knowledge or consent.
As a consequence, the complaint says, players bought replacement lives through In-App Purchases as substitutes for the lives improperly removed by King, thus enriching King.