If you’re already resentful of online dating culture and how it turned finding companionship into a game, you may not be quite ready for this: Crown, a new dating app that actually turns getting matches into a game. Crown is the latest project to launch from Match Group, the operator of a number of dating sites and apps including Match, Tinder, Plenty of Fish, OK Cupid, and others.
The app was thought up by Match Product Manager Patricia Parker, who understands first-hand both the challenges and the benefits of online dating – Parker met her husband online, so has direct experience in the world of online dating.
Crown won Match Group’s internal “ideathon,” and was then developed in-house by a team of millennial women, with a goal of serving women’s needs in particular.
The main problem Crown is trying to solve is the cognitive overload of using dating apps. As Match Group scientific advisor Dr. Helen Fisher explained a few years ago to Wired, dating apps can become addictive because there’s so much choice.
“The more you look and look for a partner the more likely it is that you’ll end up with nobody…It’s called cognitive overload,” she had said. “There is a natural human predisposition to keep looking—to find something better. And with so many alternatives and opportunities for better mates in the online world, it’s easy to get into an addictive mode.”
Millennials are also prone to swipe fatigue, as they spend an average of 10 hours per week in dating apps, and are being warned to cut down or face burnout.
Crown’s approach to these issues is to turn getting matches into a game of sorts.
While other dating apps present you with an endless stream of people to pick from, Crown offers a more limited selection.
Every day at noon, you’re presented with 16 curated matches, picked by some mysterious algorithm. You move through the matches by choosing who you like more between two people at a time.
That is, the screen displays two photos instead of one, and you “crown” your winner. (Get it?) This process then repeats with two people shown at a time, until you reach your “Final Four.”
Those winners are then given the opportunity to chat with you, or they can choose to pass.
In addition to your own winners, you may also “win” the crown among other brackets, which gives you more matches to contend with.
Of course, getting dubbed a winner is a stronger signal on Crown than on an app like Tinder, where it’s more common for matches to not start conversations. This could encourage Crown users to chat, given they know there’s more of a genuine interest since they “beat out” several others. But on the flip side, getting passed on Crown is going to be a lot more of an obvious “no,” which could be discouraging.
“It’s like a ‘Bachelorette’-style process of elimination that helps users choose between quality over quantity,” explains Andy Chen, Vice President, Match Group. “Research shows that the human brain can only track a set number of relationships…and technology has not helped us increase this limit.”
Chen is referring to the Dunbar number, which says that people can only really maintain a max of some 150 social relationships. Giving users a never-ending list of possible matches on Tinder, then, isn’t helping people feel like they have options – it’s overloading the brain.
While turning matchmaking into a game feels a bit dehumanizing – maybe even more so than on Tinder, with its Hot-or-Not-inspired vibe – the team says Crown actually increases the odds, on average, of someone being selected, compared with traditional dating apps.
“When choosing one person over another, there is always a winner. The experience actually encourages a user playing the game to find reasons to say yes,” says Chen.
Crown has been live in a limited beta for a few months, but is now officially launched in L.A. (how appropriate) with more cities to come. For now, users outside L.A. will be matched with those closet to them.
There are today several thousand users on the app, and it’s organically growing, Chen says.
Plus, Crown is seeing day-over-day retention rates which are “already as strong” as Match Group’s other apps, we’re told.
The app is a free download on iOS only for now. An Android version is coming, the website says.