Myth, Busted: Mobile Ads Don’t Destroy the Player Experience

By Tameka Kee
Friday, April 1, 2016 / 2 min read

“If you start your game with an interstitial, then a mobile banner, and then a video, of course that’s going to [negatively] affect the player experience,” said Barry Dorf, former VP of Partnerships and Alliances at DeNA.

Do ads destroy the mobile gameplay experience?

Our David Diaz led a discussion with the creative developers from Next Games (makers of The Walking Dead: No Man’s Land), SEGA, ICO Group and DeNA at GDC, with the goal of answering that specific question.

Mythbusting GDC Fyber 2016

The consensus was no, and there was no need to twist the panelists’ arms to come to that conclusion. When integrated thoughtfully, ads can actually be good for both mobile game monetization and player satisfaction. The key is that thoughtful integration.

Choose when to insert ads

“If you start your game with an interstitial, then a mobile banner, and then a video, of course that’s going to [negatively] affect the player experience,” said Barry Dorf, former VP of Partnerships and Alliances at DeNA.

Making sure players get to actually enjoy the game before seeing an ad seems like common sense, but in the rush to generate revenue, overzealous mobile game developers can forget about enticing with gameplay first.

But ad placement gets far more granular than just waiting until players have gotten the hang of things. Mobile game developers need to decide which specific moments between levels, tasks or other gameplay elements will be best for integration.

“Placing videos at the end of a session or level typically yields more engagement than at the beginning,” said Sulka Haro, Executive Producer at Next Games, makers of The Walking Dead: No Man’s Land. “More player engagement means more revenue.”

There’s also the question of a player’s emotional state within the game, because that affects whether they’ll click, view a video or otherwise deliver the interaction that advertisers are after.

“Never interrupt highly emotional moments in the game,” said Jorge Prado, CEO of ICO Group. “Wait until there’s a low.”

Choose the right types of ad units  

Deciding when to run ads is secondary to choosing the types of ad units to include.

Rewarded video ads, in which players receive virtual currency or another reward in exchange for watching a video, have grown in popularity vs. mobile banners or interstitials. This is because the video ads can deliver both immediate and sustainable increases in game developer revenues.

eCPMs for mobile video ads tend to be higher than for other ad units, and in some cases, rewarded video ads can contribute to the in-game economy by boosting purchases of virtual goods in the long run.

“We’ve seen an uplift in IAP with some rewarded video campaigns,” said Mike Evans, VP of Marketing at SEGA.

Still, rewarded video may not be a great fit for every game, so mobile game developers need to work with monetization providers that offer fast, easy integration of a variety of different ad units — as well as the ability to test and optimize ad placements just as quickly.

Our panel concluded that the two most important factors influencing thoughtful mobile ad integration are the kinds of ads players that see, and when they see them. But ultimately, mobile game developers need to get back into the player’s state of mind vs. thinking like a CRO when it comes to ad monetization:

“Play your game,” Prado said. “If the ads annoy you, then they’ll likely annoy players two times as much.”

You can find out more about Next Games’ success with mobile video monetization in this blog post and case study.