How Do I Feel About Businesses Whose Products Are Engineered For Addiction?

Some companies engineer their products for addiction: consider Candy Crush, which has lured in players with the idea of a quick casual game that can be played with little effort, skill, or investment. Talk to every Candy Crush player who has spent even a few minutes on the game and all of them will be able to discuss how engrossing they’ve found it. Not everybody pays to get ahead in the game — but everyone wants to.

On the surface, this feels like good business. Creating something that your customers are addicted to and that they at least feel like they have to have seems like just a way to ensure repeat business. But when you consider what businesses have similar business models, the first one that comes to mind isn’t exactly healthy (or legal). There’s a reason that addictive games are often described as ‘crack’ or another type of drug.

Is relying on addiction really a good business model? Do business owners have an obligation to avoid getting their customers addicted to a given product? Is there a middle ground? These aren’t nearly easy questions, nor do they have obvious answers. But they are worth considering when you’re planning a new product, if only because having people mention your product’s name in the same breath as a substance that routinely kills people can’t be a good thing.

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