Mobile games have an advert problem.
We have a problem with mobile adverts. Here is how we fix them.

I’m terribly addicted to stupid mobile games and I’ve downloaded things like Alto’s Odyssey, House Paint, Ballz. You name it, I’ve probably played it!

These games are annoyingly addictive, usually, if I am on a long train journey I’ll sit and play them for over half of that journey. It passes the time really well. Alto’s Odyssey is one of my favourites for a train journey, its simple design and calming music. I like that game because everything is designed to within an inch of its life.

What do I find annoying about the other mobile games?

The other games I play are all free which means they come with adverts. That’s fine, I don’t have any issues with people using ads. They are now becoming a necessary evil. Everyone has to make their money somehow.

But they do have a place. Much like news websites who use them to make their income, with the decline of physical papers. Games seem to have picked up on this and it has gone in completely the wrong direction.

Whilst playing House Paint for about 10 minutes, I was disappointed by the number of ads I got. Within that short space of time, I had watched 4 video ads, I had a banner at the bottom of the screen during gameplay, and on the home screen. I saw an ad at least once every minute.

The advert below came up in the middle of using an app, instead of a game, but note the skip timer and the full screen video.

An example of a mobile game advert on Android with an unskippable timer.

These adverts annoy me because they ruin the experience.

A lot of my day job is ensuring that user experience on a website is one of the most important things. Making sure they can find things they need easily or do the things they want to do without issue. Personally, I take pride in this work and adverts fit into the experience, how and when they can.

When you play a game, you expect to be able to play that game without interruption and not be on the receiving end of data-sucking videos advertising more games. It’s the same expectation when you go onto a website, you want to be able to use it without issue.

The adverts on these free games ruin the user experience of the game because they force the user to do things they don’t want to do. When I’m playing a game on a train, the last thing I need is an advert for another game to pop up especially a video where I am required to wait at least 30 seconds.

Adverts in mobile games will only improve with standards and guidance.

Google has been getting very strict with adverts, they even worked with their competitors to set up the Coalition for Better Ads. But that hasn’t done anything to help stem the flow of bad ones on mobile games. There seems to be a consensus that mobile game developers don’t need to pay attention to usability. This is definitely not the case.

How do we solve the problem?

The major app stores need to be stricter like they are with other things. App stores need to be making sure ads don’t annoy or interrupt time on the app and are tasteful. This is another thing to police and yes I think the quality of the game will increase if it’s kept in check.

Mobile application developers need to be more aware too. They need to understand their users as much as web designers do, making sure their products are as satisfying as the best websites in the world.