The mobile gaming industry, what more is there to say. It is full of lies and deception, and it shows no attempt at trying to hide it. Why? Because it works.
I’m not quite sure at what point mobile games and PC / Console games became so different, but mobile games are an entirely different story to tell. The fact that these games are allowed to have in-game purchases while having misleading ads has to be illegal somewhere in some book, right? I’m not the best at how false advertising laws work, but since the product is technically “free” I assume it doesn’t violate any codes cause of it. But maybe the law doesn’t apply to in-game purchases.
Okay, I did some research and while there are laws in place to stop false advertising, these games usually work around it by making it so in their Terms of Service. You aren’t allowed to sue them once you agree, and we know how most people don’t read Terms of Service. This works around the fact that the games are “Free to Play”, but you can’t actually purchase anything once you accept the Terms of Service. Alright, back to mobile game ads.
Companies will use custom animations for their ads to make it seem 20 times better than it an actually is. Like, maybe the game is just a horribly made idle game with little to no content, but the ad will be a military soldier hitting level 99 and shooting 200 zombies at once while doing a backflip into a car with hot ladies in it. Some games will even use content from other games and say it’s theirs. (This has to be illegal right?)
I think this video shows some good examples, and there’s a whole series on a bunch of mobile game ads that do this kind of stuff.
So, what kind of audience are these ads targeting then? I’d say it’s fairly obvious, kids. There are ads that say “THIS LEVEL IS TOO HARD” or “ONLY 1% OF PEOPLE CAN BEAT THIS LEVEL”, or ads that mislead you with amazing content but the actual game is fairly simple. It works because kids are young, and it doesn’t take much to entertain them. Adults may see the ads then play the game and think, “This doesn’t have the complex skill trees and building mechanics I came for!” (Okay, maybe not exactly that.) Then promptly leave after a few minutes of playing. Kids on the other hand will find themselves hooked at these simple games, and would you look at that? In-game purchases.
There isn’t a lot of difficulty to purchase in-game content with how mobile games are setup. Sometimes it’s as easy as one or two clicks, and most kids probably won’t ask for permission first cause “my parents won’t understand”. As someone who has played a lot of mobile games, they will also purposefully make the most expensive deals the “BEST DEALS”. They’d make you get more gems or coins or whatever currency they use, making it seem like it’s “WORTH 160% MORE”.
This both lies in the fact that in-game purchases are easily exploitable by children and misleading mobile game ads being allowed in general. We can laugh at make fun of how silly these ads are, but if companies keep making them then it’s clear that they’re actually working, to some extent. I highly doubt these ads are taking up a lot of their budget, since their quality in comparison to actual games are like night and day. It’s not like mobile game ads have been like this forever, either.
From the same Youtuber, it’s obvious ads CAN have effort put into them. Even if they were silly or maybe putting the game seem a bit more exciting then it actually is, they weren’t misleading. I mean, that’s part of advertising, making your content seem interesting. However, companies will continue to put low budget ads that lie as long as it makes them money, and who can blame them. There’s no need to put in actual effort for game play and in-depth story lines to make money off a game. Just take the simplest games and slap in-game purchases onto it, and it’s likely it’ll make more money. It’s sad because it’s likely that Apple or YouTube or any advertising service won’t put in more effort into stopping these kinds of things, because it probably makes them money too. So, in the end the only losers are the parents of kids who can’t stop themselves from purchasing that $99 bundle.