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Why do free mobile games have so many ads?

Do you ever feel like the mobile games you play are constantly interrupting your fun with video ads, banners that cover the screen, or pop-ups asking you to buy things? You‘re not alone! As a fellow mobile gaming fan, I totally get how frustrating and annoying it can be. In this guide, I‘ll explain exactly why free games rely so heavily on ads, the problems it causes, and how we can work together with developers to improve the experience.

Ads enable "free" games, but ruin the experience if overdone

The core reason that free mobile games contain so many ads is that ads provide revenue for developers. Creating fun, high quality games takes a ton of time, effort and money. Developers need to earn back these costs, plus make a profit, otherwise they can‘t afford to keep making games.

Instead of charging money to download games, ads allow developers to generate income while letting players get games for free. Lisa Cosmas Hanson, President of gaming market research firm Niko Partners, confirms this:

"Developers need to monetize their apps to keep the lights on and to fund future development. Ads enable them to offer apps for free, or at least enable free trials of apps that are paid."

But things get out of hand when developers go overboard trying to maximize ad revenue. Have you ever felt like some games are completely dominated by ads? Full screen video ads every few minutes, banner ads taking up half the screen, or those frustrating "offer walls" that demand you install 5 other random games before you can collect a reward.

According to a study by Wired, mobile games with too many disruptive ads can reduce user retention by up to 200%. And analytics company Adjust found that 72% of players will uninstall a mobile game that forces full screen ads.

I don‘t know about you, but I play games to have fun – not to be constantly interrupted. We deserve better than nonstop ads getting in the way of our enjoyment. The sad part is, excessive ads don‘t even help developers that much…players just get fed up and stop playing. There has to be a better way!

Why some developers resort to manipulative or misleading ads

Part of the problem is the rise of "hypercasual" gaming apps. These are simple mobile games like aquarium simulators or ball throwing games that rely entirely on ads rather than in-app purchases or multiplayer features to make money. Since their only incentive is driving ad impressions, they‘re designed to maximize ads over entertainment value.

Some shady developers also create misleading ads on purpose to trick people into installing games. Have you ever seen an ad showcasing intense console-quality graphics and action, but when you download the game it‘s just a boring puzzle or trivia app? I certainly have, and it‘s incredibly frustrating to feel manipulated like that.

While not exactly illegal, these unethical practices clearly damage the industry‘s reputation. Mobile gaming already struggles with being perceived as lower quality than PC or console gaming. Tricking consumers with false advertising helps no one in the long run.

How we can work together for a better experience

So what can we as players do about this situation? While we can‘t directly make developers change their monetization strategies, there are some steps we can take together:

  • Be selective about which games we play & support. By only downloading and playing games from developers who use ads responsibly, we incentivize better behavior.

  • Leave constructive reviews pointing out disruptive ads. Reviews help developers understand our perspective and what needs fixing.

  • Don‘t fall for manipulative ads. As tempting as some ads might seem, look up real gameplay before downloading unknown games.

  • Use ad blockers if necessary, but whitelist developers who design responsibly. Blocking all ads completely removes revenue for potential good games too.

  • Reward good behavior. For example, if a game limits ads at first but gives you an ad-free paid unlock, buy it to support ethical practices.

Developers and publishers also play a major role in improving the mobile gaming ads situation:

  • Prioritize user experience over maxing revenue. Too many ads ultimately lose players.

  • Clearly communicate the value exchange of ads. Explain to players how watching ads helps support ongoing development.

  • Make ads optional, not forced. Reward players who opt in to ads vs mandating everyone see them.

  • Match ads to context. Relevant ads feel less jarring than random irrelevant ones.

  • Limit disruptive formats like interstitials. Use those only at clean break points.

With a spirit of mutual understanding and incentives for quality over quantity, we can help guide the industry toward a better, less annoying approach to in-game ads. Our combined voices are powerful!

The way forward: Moderation and communication

At the end of the day, ads are an economic necessity for free-to-play mobile games. They help fund development costs and server fees so that we players can enjoy new games without paying.

But excessive, intrusive ads hurt everyone, developers included. As Brett Seyler from influencer platform The Koalition explains:

"Like all things in life, moderation is key. Ads in moderation, timed well and relevant to the experience add to a game‘s revenue without taking away from the user experience."

The key principles are moderation and clear communication:

  • Developers should limit ads to reasonable amounts at appropriate times, not make them constant and disruptive. Spread them out, don‘t show multiple ads back-to-back.

  • Keep players informed about how ads help support the game they enjoy, and the value exchange involved. Players are more receptive to ads if they understand why they exist.

  • Make sure ads match the game context and demo. For example, sports or action game players see relevant sports/action branded ads. This feels less jarring.

  • Offer a paid ad-free upgrade for loyal players who want to remove ads while still supporting the developer. This caters to all preferences.

  • Interstitial and video ads are more intrusive. Use those only occasionally between levels or at major break points.

With reasonable implementation, there are benefits for all:

  • Players get to enjoy free quality games supported by developers.

  • Developers earn revenue to cover costs and keep making great games.

  • Advertisers reach interested engaged audiences.

It‘s a win-win for everyone! What do you think? I‘d love to hear your perspective on achieving the right ads balance. Together, we can help improve the mobile gaming experience while still supporting the hardworking developers who create the games we love.



Michael Reddy is a tech enthusiast, entertainment buff, and avid traveler who loves exploring Linux and sharing unique insights with readers.