Mobile Game Ads: An American Tragedy

Mobile game ads need to be banned on a federal level before their damage to the public’s sanity becomes irreversible.

Reading Time: 3 minutes

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By Julia Shen

It is no secret that mobile game creators have used some questionable practices to earn as much money as possible in the rapidly growing market. Loot boxes, pay-to-win tactics, and other techniques have helped mobile games evolve from a market that focused on creating enjoyable games into one focused solely on profit and quick consumer acquisition. In an attempt to make elementary schoolers spend their parents’ money on mobile games, developers have created some advertisements that are downright dreadful.

An interesting development is that these ads have progressed into none other than false advertising to cover up their poor design. After constantly seeing Homescapes ads filled with character drama and mini-games, I decided to download the game for the purpose of this article. Of course, it was the millionth “Match 3” game on the market and exceptionally boring with none of the “drama” from the ads. I’ll never get back the full three minutes I spent before deleting it.

Meanwhile, even more desperate game developers have started to rely on pure scams in their ads. I have seen countless ads that show someone playing the game and then randomly receiving money through PayPal simply for playing. Since it sounded too good to be true, I sacrificed my dignity for my curiosity and downloaded not one, but two of these games. Both turned out to be children’s games that didn’t give me any money but instead asked for my own. Naturally, the creators’ hope is that some eight-year-old will make all in-app purchases necessary to succeed in the game and receive the promised PayPal reward. Thankfully, I’m slightly smarter than an eight-year-old and deleted both games immediately.

Not only are these false advertising and scamming practices frustrating and evil, but they’re also illegal. According to the Federal Trade Commission, ads that leave out crucial information or simply lie are considered false advertising and are strictly prohibited by the U.S. government. We can only hope that the people behind mobile game ads will be behind bars sometime soon, in which case we can all celebrate our freedom from their evil creations.

Aside from being misleading, mobile game ads are easily the most annoying and cringe-worthy type of advertisement with the ability to ruin anyone’s day instantly; it’s imperative that the government take action against the havoc these ads are wreaking on society. Their ridiculous taglines, such as “only one percent can reach the top,” “noob vs. pro,” and even “mom vs. dad,” make me irrationally angry. How anyone, even an eight-year-old, can look at these ads and want to download the app is beyond me.

While I’m no marketing expert, these ads do not use the right methods to target customers. The ones that are well-designed but misleading may bring in downloads, but too many people will quickly abandon the game once they realize they’ve been lied to. Other ads seem to aim to annoy the potential customer through various tactics: some pretend to be an interactive sample of the game but bring the player to the download page instead. Others leave the audience staring at one photo for 30 seconds with little content about the game. They’re made with no effort. Some occasionally do not have audio, and the same characters and content are used to depict several completely different games.

After much thought and research, however, I’ve come up with a theory as to why the ads are so poor. Most of these ads show up in other mobile games, which usually have a purchase option available to disable further ads. Perhaps these companies have given up on selling consumers their games and instead want the player to despise having to keep watching the ads and make the purchase necessary to avoid it. These ad companies aren't trying to market any other game but rather increase purchases for the one a player has already downloaded.

Overall, mobile game advertisements are a menace to society. If we track down the people making them, we can relieve ourselves of this pressing issue. They can’t stop all of us. We need to rise up, call our representatives, and protest mobile game ads. We are the revolution.