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Candy Crush turns New York sky into billboard despite backlash

Candy Crush has circumvented New York City’s complete ban on drones and launched a floating advertisement to mark the game's 10th anniversary.

A 10-minute show involved 500 pre-programmed drones launched from across the Hudson River, in New Jersey. The synchronized aerial dance imitated the elements of the popular game and was visible from lower Manhattan.

A viewing event was also held at the Battery Park Esplanade Plaza, with the invitations saying drones would be "taking over" the New York City skyline. Candy Crush promised to turn it into "the largest screen on the planet."

The plan was met with criticism from some local media and lawmakers. The Gothamist described it as another advertising "ploy" that intruded on the urban landscape. At the same time, Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine tweeted Candy Crush was exploiting numerous legal loopholes to fill New York's sky with "ad clutter."

The drones were launched from New Jersey's Liberty State Park and did not cross state lines, thus technically respecting New York City's drone ban.

The show's producers, a Virginia-based drone event company Pixis, obtained a special permit to launch the drones from New Jersey, which otherwise restricts drone use in its state parks. The event was also cleared by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

Using the same loophole, Pixis utilized New York City's sky as a billboard once before this past summer to promote the NBA draft.

"Outrageous commercialization"

New York State Senator Brad Hoylman, representing Manhattan's West Side, from where the show was visible, said in a tweet that it was an "outrageous commercialization" of the public space.

He called on the FAA and the State of New Jersey to respect New York City's drone ban, adding that a "massive profit-seeking" drone show threatened the public safety and "peaceful enjoyment" of the city waterfront.

New Yorkers also raised concerns that drones would disturb and endanger migrating birds, but some spectators who attended the Candy Crush event said the show was "beautiful." Other gazers said the launch was "underwhelming" and felt distant.

It certainly does not compare to record-breaking drone shows held in China, where the technology's performative capabilities are displayed to mark special occasions like Chinese New Year.

They’re also used for marketing purposes: the largest event so far saw Korean car manufacturer Hyundai use 3,281 drones to promote its luxury Genesis brand in Shanghai.

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