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Why is King Removing In-Game Ads?
by Benjamin Sipe on 06/17/13 03:12:00 pm   Expert Blogs   Featured Blogs

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.

 


King recently decided to abandon in-game advertising and considering my position with the NativeX Games Task Force (where we collaborate with mobile game developers to increase the engagement, retention, and monetization) this sparked a few questions and discussions in circles of people around me. Why are they doing this? What's their motive? Were players leaving? Did they need a better ad experience? These are all good questions, but before addressing them specifically around King let's look at the two major groups of developers who don't want or like ads. There might be more groups than this, but in my experience most developers fall into these two buckets.

Purist Developers

I've encountered several developers who don't want to break the 4th wall in their game design. They've created a story and world where they feel players should immerse themselves, and advertisements would make players aware that this is just a game. I have a hard time believing this in mobile gaming, but I won't argue that point against developers who feel this way.

There are also developers who believe that the game they are creating will be good enough that players will "want" to spend money in game through in app purchases (IAPs). With those developers, I wish and hope that they're right! I would hope that a game could achieve 100% conversion rate, 75% or even 30%. Unfortunately, you'll never have 100% conversion and most developers won't see more than 10% conversion (in a F2P title) just because one word is associated with their game... free. Some consumers have preconceived notions or assumptions with the word free, and game designers/developers will never be able to change how those people feel about the word free.

Lastly in the purist category, there are some developers who think that advertisement revenue cannibalizes their IAP revenue.  This can be true, but only if they slap ads into a game without thinking how to "intelligently" integrate advertisements. I can take any game and completely destroy it with advertisements. I think we all can, but you can also increase your game/company revenues significantly with the addition of advertisements too. That is, if you care for more revenue.

 

Elective Developers

The other kind of developers out there that don't use ads are those who have enough cash flow or resources and don't feel the need to include advertising revenue, or any other benefits associated with it. They can "elect" to include ads or not. Most of the time this way of thinking spawns from great success, so it's really difficult to criticize their decision to remove ads because they're obviously doing something right being as successful as they are. If you haven't guessed it yet, King falls under this category.

Many developers think of advertisements as a "necessary evil" in order to make a living out of doing something they love. On the flip-side  advertisers believe they are offering a service or product that the consumer values. Which is right? Well that depends on the game/platform and the consumer. Let's look at Hay Day for example. My wife has been playing for over a year, and is level 60-something at the time of writing this. She has never made an IAP. She will never make an IAP. I asked her why and her response was, "because it's free." However, she will watch videos for currency. She actually likes to watch ads for currency. This is a case where a consumer finds value in an advertisement and the developer is benefiting from it as well. Of course on the other end of the spectrum, 20-some year old hardcore gamers who only buy Call of Duty will hate advertisements. (Ok that's sort of an extreme example, but I think you get the idea.)

 

You Think I'm Saying King is Making a Mistake?

Not necessarily, but I believe there's a role for advertisements in most games. I've seen the effects first hand from players who won't spend. However, the data at my fingertips from the NativeX network and from the shift I've witnessed in the past few years shows the importance of advertising. However, this is sort of a win-win scenario for King. They're successful so advertising isn't as important, they're getting some press coverage for the announcement and in the eyes of gamers it looks like they're "doing good."

Do I think this stance can last? That all depends on their future success. If they stay on top, or keep releasing hits then yes, but if revenues start declining or they're not meeting expectations then they might reintroduce ads. There's also always the possibility of reintroducing ads back in games that are "sunsetting" so we could always see them pop back into games that aren't in the spotlight anymore.

If you’d like to talk about this or any other games you can find me here at my blog, the NativeX blog or on Twitter.


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Comments


Ramin Shokrizade
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I only use Facebook for games. When I see advertisements, it is always for games. If I was playing Candy Crush Saga, and there were advertisements, it would most likely be for *non* King games. I could see how this might undermine their retention.

Rosstin Murphy
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Personally, I'm hoping that we're moving towards a world where outbound marketing is a thing of the past, and users can see ads that are relevant to them. As a gamer, I don't mind seeing ads for other games. Even if these are games I'll never play, having an awareness of new games and how they're advertised adds (haha) value to me. I think that in a similar way, as contextual advertising and inbound marketing mature, people will become less annoyed and suspicious, and more accepting of ads, and conversion rates from advertisements will increase.

Lance McKee
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I think with certain games the ads are kind of a nice addition as long as they are relevant and are implemented with a little respect for the player. However, when the ads are quickly placed right where the developer knew you were about to touch that is extremely frustrating.

The ads themselves are often frustrating too. For example, the other day I got an ad that popped up and showed an anime-style girl with huge breasts in very little clothing, with a link at the bottom that said "Play Now". That was all there was on the ad. While there are a lot of things about that ad that bother me, just having ads like that pop up every once in a while is a lot like having a message box display every few minutes saying "Hey, we just wanted to remind you that we think you're an idiot."

Steven Christian
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I definitely agree with both comments here.
I can also see how in app advertising can break immersion.
Hell, even product placement within movies breaks immersion for me (especially if the product in question doesn't fit with the world).

However, unlike most people, I don't mind having ads tailored to me.
If someone can show me an ad for a product that I want and that I didn't know about previously, I would be quite happy; unfortunately it hasn't happened yet; Google Ads in particular seem happy to refer me to sites that I have recently visited and already made purchases from, or pages related to something that I was googling last week/month which is no longer relevant to me.

Daniel Kaplan
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I have never understood, actually why games have ads for other's games. Sure, they can get a kickback by installing someone else's game but why not try to make your own game monetize better? Wouldn't that give the developer much more money then sending the player off somewhere else and eventually lose her completely..?

(Also, TF2, HoN, LoL and other F2P games don't have ads.)

Rosstin Murphy
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I think the aforementioned games are example of runaway successes, games which are so excellent and popular that they don't need that extra support.

That said, certainly one of the best strategies for making money is to just make something so astoundingly good that huge numbers of people will play it. It's just hard to design for that unless you're a big company with massive talent and lots of money.

Jeff Alexander
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> I have never understood, actually why games have ads for other's games.

1. Barter. Multiple developers enter a mutual agreement that they'll all advertise each others' games for free. All of them get exposure to potential new customers and it doesn't cost any money.
2. The games have different developers but are all published by the same company, which wants all games it publishes to be visible.
3. The developer subscribes to a third-party promotional agency because it's more adept at promoting things, but the terms are that the agency controls much of the ads.

Robert Green
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@Daniel "Sure, they can get a kickback by installing someone else's game but why not try to make your own game monetize better?"

Firstly, integrating ads is fairly easy. Making better monetization can be very difficult. It's also, in a sense, fairer, in that you're trying to make a little more money from every player instead of a lot more from a few.
And that leads to the second issue - creating 'better' monetization in a f2p game usually means figuring out how to charge people more for the same game, when ostensibly you're giving the game away for free. A lot of people are still fairly uncomfortable with the implications of this, and advertising provides a potential solution.

Dimitri Del Castillo
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I never had a problem with the ads in Candy Crush. I'd actually get 4-5 extra lives from ads that I didn't watch or muted the sound on. Now I have to wait for my lives to regen like everybody else. The benefit for me is it has curbed my playing time on it now, not sure if that's a benefit for them though.

Eric Finlay
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It's important to note that King is one of the biggest skill gaming websites on the non-mobile webs. Maybe they're going to start trying to bring that functionality to mobile, and this is just a part of the transition. God I hope not, cause that's what I'm working on!

Lex Allen
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The truth is that they weren't able to make enough money on the ads. One of my Flash games has 3,000,000 plays, and I only made $300.00 on it. I couldn't find a sponsor, so I just stuck Mochiads on it.

So, I should have used something else to monetize it, but monetizing a dress up game is NOT easy.

So, it the ads were profitable and significant, I'm sure they would have kept them.

Curtiss Murphy
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Developing a compelling monetization strategy for freemium is HARD, no matter the genre!

Daniel Boy
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"20-some year old hardcore gamers who only buy Call of Duty will hate advertisements"
Imagine: A player watches videos that advertise guns or drones or dogs before a match. This is "research" and will speed-up her xp-rate.


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