Whether or not you consider mobile games to be “real” games or not, they’re a part of the gaming industry all the same. Mobile games are appealing to the average consumer for many reasons- they’re free, they’re accessible, and they provide quick bursts on entertainment without requiring a long-term commitment. However, any mobile game player will agree: mobile games are littered with ads. Is it killing the industry?

Man holding a Samsung galaxy mobile phone
How do you feel about mobile gaming?
Photo by MOHI SYED from Pexels

I consider myself a “gamer”, but I don’t harbor the usual vitriol “gamers” have for casual mobile games. As someone with a background in psychology, I understand their appeal. They’re brightly colored, and you don’t have to buy extra equipment to play them. 81% of Americans own a smartphone these days, and with most mobile games being free to download (or at the very least, pretty cheap) it’s no wonder mobile games are a smash hit. With mechanics engineered to get people addicted and spend real money, mobile app developers seem to have found their cash cow.

Nothing is more frustrating than a wonderful app that is absolutely littered with ads. Did you finish a level? Here’s an unskippable 30-second ad. Want more hints? Watch this video for 30 seconds. Do you want to get a free powerup? Use this in-game currency or watch an ad for 3 free whatever-you-call-it’s. One of my favorite apps, Numberzilla, is notorious for it. But with a revolving subscription of $7.99 a month, I deal with it and grumble about it to myself.

Screenshot of Mobile Game Numberzilla
Numberzilla is probably the best app I’ve ever downloaded. Curse you, ads!
Screenshot from author (app by AppCraft LLC)

Ads A Plenty

Surely, app developers must know this is annoying. They must know their demographic hates these ads- especially the ones with fake exits in the corner. You know the ones. The ads that trick you into clicking on them so you’re brought to the App Store or Play Store to download the app they’re advertising. Those are by far the worst of the bunch. But the sheer volume of these things is maddening. I just want to play my wooden block puzzle, not watch about Disney Emoji Blitz for the hundredth time today.

Here’s the issue. The mobile game developers know. Oh, do they know. When they’ve got you hooked with a fun game, that’s when the ads start coming. Ads on top of ads, ads that stop your progress, ads that are necessary to move on to the next level. And because you love this game, and possibly have already spent money on it, they know they’ve got you right where they want you. That’s when they offer it: the salvation to your ad-pocalypse. Just pay this one time fee, and the ads will be gone forever. That’s all, just $1.99, and the ads are gone. You can play in peace.

Mobile app Candy Crush
Candy Crush is another addictive mobile game
Photo by Beata Dudová from Pexels

For those games that we really love, $1.99 isn’t so bad. At this point, you’re just ready to get back to whatever you were playing. The real issue, for me, is when this number starts to go in the $2.99+ range. Or, the dreaded revolving subscription. Because, here’s the thing. If I’m already paying for subscriptions like Xbox Game Pass, why on Earth would I pay $8.00 a month for some small mobile app? I have full versions of multiple games for around $14.99 a month.

Well, reader, I’ll tell you why I’ve almost paid $8.00 for some small mobile app. Xbox Game Pass doesn’t have Numberzilla, thank you very much! It’s true. It’s embarrassing. No one pays real money for mobile games except for nerds. But oh, dear reader, have I almost been a huge nerd multiple times.

How Do We Stop the Mobile Game Ads?

The problem is, with the current setup, ads work. Sure, you may get an angry Play Store review because people are fed up with being force-fed ads. However, there are still thousands of people who will download your mobile game and sit through the ads. Because we love the games, or we have an extra $2.00 burning a hole in our pockets and spend the money. Either way, mobile game developers get paid.

Unless we all start boycotting mobile games that have annoying ads and only play the good ones that are ad-free, this doesn’t look like it’s going to change anytime soon. As much as I’d like to say yes, excessive ads are killing the mobile game industry, they’re not.

Hopefully, with the recent interest in protecting yourself from targeted ads, more people will be interested in getting away from ads altogether. Until that day though, I’ll keep playing my favorite games and despair when I’ve watched three ads in three minutes. I’m looking at you, Numberzilla. Make it a one-time payment already!