Will The Fake Ads Outbreak In Mobile Games Continue In 2020?
It is no secret that in the world of mobile games there have been some questionable practices in the past aimed at earning as much money as possible in this rapidly growing market. Loot boxes, pay to win tactics, and other such techniques have helped mobile games evolve into a market focused on profit and quick customer acquisition. In 2019, the mobile gaming community saw the explosion of yet another one of these issues: a misleading advertisement for mobile games.
While misleading advertisement itself is not a new issue and has been a part of the advertising world for quite some time, 2019 brought a lot of games that utilized misleading ads to the point that creatives showed completely different gameplay and graphics. Key examples of this can be found in Homescapes, Mafia City and Matchington Mansion. Homescapes and other titles from Playrix are notorious for promoting the game with fake ad stories: saving character, solving a puzzle, or finding hidden objects. But when players finally see screenshots on the App Store and Play Store or play the game itself, the gameplay turns out to be a match-3, similar to a Candy Crush or Bejeweled. There is also a variety of fake ad storylines, among the most popular are house-repairing, loot puzzle, character-saving, choose your own story, and hidden objects.
Why Do Companies Do This?
Misleading advertising occurs mainly as companies try to stand out from their rivals on the mobile game market. In looking like the next big hit or mimicking the newest craze, companies can pull gamers to their products much easier than if they look like another match-three game. While match-three games have been around for years and feel like much of the same, the glossy packaging of a new advertisement changes the look and excitement of it for new players. This pulls them into games they otherwise might not have downloaded.
Naturally, a large number of players feel disappointment or frustration after downloading and playing a game they didn’t expect. So why do companies still do it? Even with a vast number of players deleting these mobile games after being disappointed, a number of players will get past the miscue and keep the game. These are players who often would not have downloaded the game in the first place without the exciting advertisement that first drew them in. Companies end up coming out ahead in the long run as a result of running such misguided advertisements.
The Future of Mobile Games’ Misleading Advertising
One of the biggest questions that accompanies any new trend in advertising or gaming is how long the trend is likely to last. Truthfully, for misleading advertisements, there is no simple answer. Some of the most significant factors in predicting this include the players’ patience, the market’s speed, and the law’s haziness around misleading advertising.
Players have already expressed frustration over Playrix ads by launching a petition on Change.org. Negative reviews based on misleading advertising are plenty, but they also often get buried under paid reviews and other positive comments. The more frustrated players are with being duped, the less likely the trend will continue as players will stop downloading these games in the first place.
The market itself is also fast-paced with an every-day increasing volume of mobile games. With how quickly the market moves, this may lead to the misleading advertising trend losing its longevity. Other games will come up with better tactics to acquire players and maintain their players’ base without deceiving them with an ad. Once they create these new and effective tactics, the market will move on again.
There has been the question of legality as well. Unfortunately, this is another instance where the market’s speed works against the issue. Misleading advertising legally falls into the category when reasonable consumers are misled into what they’re buying. Is it fair enough to expect one style of gameplay based on a trailer when tucked away on store pages, they do list a single screenshot of the real gameplay? The law has always struggled to keep up with the fast pace of technology, especially in the mobile game market. By the time laws have been updated to reflect the issue better, the market will have moved on to a new tactic.
However, some publishers actively running fake ads already forestalled law issues: the ad now goes with a note “Not all images represent actual gameplay”.
What We Can Learn From This Trend
There is still plenty we can learn from the good and the bad of this trend on the mobile gaming market. Now more than ever, it’s apparent that customer acquisition is king in mobile games. The market is full of options for gamers and can be almost overwhelming when they choose what to play. With so many options for players to choose from, publishers need to do everything they can to make their game stand out from the crowd. On the mobile market, misleading advertising has seen success as players download their games, but even with a number of customers deleting the game upon disappointment, plenty keep the game and continue playing. It means user acquisition makes all the difference in the overwhelming mobile market.
For players, there is a need to double-check what they see. Often, players make their decisions on what games to spend their time and money based on the advertisements they see. If ads don’t even promise accurate gameplay, players need to dive deeper into researching games and what the actual gameplay will be like. If players are required to spend more time researching how accurate advertising is compared to the game itself, they may be less likely to download the game in the first place.
Another question without an answer is will this expand beyond the mobile market into console and PC games? If it does, what does this mean for the gaming world overall? At least for now, PC and console market keep out of this trend, basically because the user acquisition approaches are quite different.
While the future of misleading ads is unclear enough we believe it will run its course in 2020–2021 due to the fast-growing market and UA progress.