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Facebook's strategy has been to Grow First, include Ads Later. For mobile games, is there any evidence that ads hinder popularity, or that people are more likely to share games without ads? Or as mentioned by angarg12, is there evidence that introducing ads part-way through a game's life cycle affects how people feel toward your game?

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We're looking for long answers that provide some explanation and context. Don't just give a one-line answer; explain why your answer is right, ideally with citations. Answers that don't include explanations may be removed.

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A user keeps a game on his mobile phone on average 20 days. So for the most part, adding ads is not going to be noticed much after launch. However, it is going to affect your biggest fan the most, which is the segment you don't really want to piss off.

There are ways to mitigate the effect however. #1 is to only show ads to people who downloaded the game after version X, so old player won't see any ads. Also, do not show ads to players who purchased something (so no ads in premium games and no ads to a user who dropped $5 on virtual goods).

I have retroactively added ads into a popular game. The effect was some bad reviews, but for the most part people expect ads - as long as they are not over the top annoying. The rating didn't really drop when I added the ads. Maybe 0.1 points, but that's it.

Also you can let the users know that you need the money to make another game... lots of people are quite understanding of the plea of the indie developer.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Do you have a reference to back up the "20 day" stat? \$\endgroup\$ – John McDonald Jul 21 '14 at 20:24
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Facebook is not at all analogous to games. Once you and all your friends are there (let's say 50 people), you are all not going to get up and leave at the same time because of ads. Just one person won't leave because his network of people won't be at the new place.

Facebook as a system has huge momentum because of the social capital thing. An individual game doesn't, unless it's something involving tons of players like WoW. Even then, the networks of involved players in WoW aren't as big as the networks on FB.

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I think the question you should ask is "what is the impact of transition from ad-free to include ads in players?"

All examples I personally know from mobile game developers, they either included ads or didn't, but never switched from one to the other. Just think, if somebody gets hooked to you game with ads, he is OK. But if he gets hooked without ads, and you add them, is he going to react negatively?.

After a quick search I was unable to find advice on the matter, but think that while people is quite tolerant to changes in large platforms like Facebook, I usually picture users of mobile games as much more volatile (after all, they have thousands of alternatives to choose from).

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I think this answer has a very valid point. I would agree that SWITCHING to ads would anger someone, I know it would me. I think a better approach would to be start out without ads (if you can support the revenue loss) and on 2nd or 3rd production title add in ads AFTER your company/yourself proves a competent game manufacturer. \$\endgroup\$ – Joe Swindell Jul 16 '14 at 12:13
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    \$\begingroup\$ Personally, I also think there is an issue with honesty here. I don´t think is honest to provide your players with a free game, just to include adds latter. If you want to make money with ads, you must be honest with yours players and tell them right away. However I didn´t included this argument in my answer since honesty is oppinion based. \$\endgroup\$ – angarg12 Jul 23 '14 at 16:48
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The following article is from the dev(s) of clash of clans where they point out one of their "Keys to success" is not having ads. Its just a small reason but its something that's brought up.

http://www.gamasutra.com/view/news/185406/Clash_of_Clans_5_keys_to_success.php

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Changing the rules of the game mid-way is usually a bad idea. People acquire a product for a number of reasons which vary from person to person. One of those reasons might be not being bothered by annoying ads popping up from everywhere. In therms of mobile games, I always enjoyed the idea of creating a free version with ads and an ad-less comercial version. That way users always feel like they have the power of choice.

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Good question. Let us assume some simple things:

  1. A game without ads is more likable to a user.
  2. User understands that ads are 'necessary evil' to make 'free' games possible.

Given that, For mobile games, is there any evidence that ads hinder popularity, or that people are more likely to share games without ads? I would say 'No'. People are more likely to share games that they like, and such games are not necessarily ads free.

Or as mentioned by angarg12, is there evidence that introducing ads part-way through a game's life cycle affects how people feel toward your game? I think most important aspect here is that people don't like being fooled. Changing rules is some sort of cheating, they would not like it. However given p.2 most users will understand that this is normal -- it was free, but it can't be free forever (unless you told them so). You could also mention specifically that game won't be ads free forever. It also can be reasonable to add, at the same time, ability to buy ads-free option, so you won't lose people that are zero-tolerant to ads, but like your game.

As a personal experience, I think major problem with ads is then there is excessive amounts of it and then it's placed deliberately so you can accidentally hit it. It doesn't matter if it was added from the start, or after some time. If there is no option to buy game, most will stop using it.

As a conclusion I think that adding ads midway would not affect users significally unless you add it too much. But I also think that adding it from the start would NOT make it more or less popular -- as already mentioned Facebook analogy can't be really applied here.

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I'd say waiting at least a little bit is best.

When you put ads is less about how your users will respond to ads. If you put ads immediately (like Microsoft Studios Windows 8 game apps) people will come if it's not intrusive. If you put ads later (like Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, ...) your following will moan but stay.

The real advantage to waiting on ads is focus. First your decisions cater to users. When ads come in, you now have another audience to give time, screen space and production effort to, the advertisers. Developing a strong, loyal community can be easier if in the beginning you are giving your all (screen space, design thought effort, programming time, game time, etc) to the users. Once things are stable and your users are happy, then you can slowly start to tackle that second audience of advertisers.

Also, looking at a more complete and stable sense of your app makes it easier to see where ads would work. After the UI is made, it might become clearer whether text, graphic or inter-level video ads would be best. You can use in-app analytics to figure out expendable screen real estate, what kinds of screen sizes you have to work with, what places a user tends to just be waiting while things load, etc. This can all help you make a better design for putting in ads.

...Lastly, if you do have a big following before ads, that might help you have some say in picking out sponsors if you wanted.

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Im a beginning android developer, and been thinking on this subject.

Obvious is that, that an unpopular game doesnt need ads, because theres noone to see them. Our main goal being monetization, we need to have a popular game and for it to have ads.

One of the hints to make a popular game is to make lots of games. So, by not implementing ads in all of them, you save time, so you can make more games. Then, when you see one game gaining popularity, you implement ads.

Also, as other mentioned, a game that doesnt have ads is a little bit more attractive to users.

So yes, grow first, ads later makes sense for me.

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General INTRO/Context:

It is a general misconception that people think, while playing,how can inclusion of ads in the mid way affect gameplay, but reality dives deep into it.

A lot of thinking goes into marketting department for each game, what possible dates should be planned to make the update of a game more successful, how adding a simple patch, at right time causes deep crests and troughs in game sales

Answering the question:

A good game usually starts off on its root, and i am not completely against displaying ads, cause that is the game earning source for the developers, and it should be used with care, and the reasons for this statement are few of experiences listed in google hangouts and game review sites:

  1. Adding a ad in the midway of game development,reflects 2 things , firstly that game has strong roots(& or strong marketting resources), and secondly that developers also want a fair share of users to understand their credit in achieving the gameplay level.
  2. Premium items: Inclusion of premium items(gold/gem)or high order currency in which users can dominate other freeloaders by the resources, these techniques, really spoil the gaming environment, but introducing them, so that both freebies and richies remain at content is a skill,
  3. Placement of an ad url link that occurs just after you press an "OK" button that arrives at the same location, an you get frustrated to get back to play
  4. Demo versions: Now these demos are good to play for some games, but not even letting the players to complete one level in the game and redirecting to buy the game page, shows the greed and desperate attempt from developers side, and from game's point of view it is considerred to be a money-milking strategy.
  5. Ads That appear afterwards the game hits a success tier should be more careful to look at all aspects regarding content of ads, and also place all the items relating to game-related queries only
  6. Preloader ads: These are most frustrating, and every time the user thinks, that waste all your energy in loading the game not the ad, and game may fail in later stage.
  7. Adding a patch :that deletes your local save and restarts, enabling you to go from a series of ads, this is the most dangerous type, users get frustrated and angry instantly and game is burried into bad reviews section everywhere. 8.

Coming back to just ADS

Those ADS that are inserted in some patch, From developers point of view its a fortune and game can grow even more, and this enables high values of rich context in relation to game to reach out to market for even more success.

  • Another factor is HONESTY: [from the developers side], giving a free game, and later giving out a paid sequel to awesome game can truly reflect ads matter and game content also drives users. we see a lot of versions of Angry Birds in the market, take a close look at its marketing case study, and how it evolved. I think it is the perfect example.

Also This answer is more from the point of how players perceive the game and how ADS/patch/updates change their behaviour reflecting it on game, From developers side , a developer should consider this point of view and also avoid accidental-click money, if they drive on game content.

Hope the answer explains and stands true from both sides...

Referrences: http://www.cnet.com/news/bioshock-studio-irrational-games-closing-its-doors/

http://www.mmaglobal.com/files/casestudies/Mobile_Ad_Formats_Explained_20131119.pdf

and normal experience of playing and developing mobile games(dumb games included), google hangout seesions on game development and game chatrooms

http://www.gamefaqs.com/wii-u/631516-wii-u/answers?qid=363046 this is the game that works for wii, but for mobile platforms as in question, there are many (Im not naming) games that appear in bad reviews that have instant loss due to new patches deleting saved data.

angrybirds case study

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From my experience, it is not so much if there are ads or not, but more of how they are being used. If you have an ad on the main screen that the player will be on for the majority of their time, then they are exposed to the ad more. If it's on a menu screen, that the player will always use, but not for a long period of time, then it is not as heavy of an exposure.

Another idea is if the player can get rid of the ad in some way, mainly navigation of the game. If the ad is on the main game screen, then when playing your game, they will always be exposed to it for as long as they play, which gives a kind of trapped sense to the player. If the ad is on a menu screen or something, the player can navigate away, and avoid seeing it. You are giving the player actions to prevent exposure to the ad, but exposure is the only way to prompt the action.

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