If you have a smartphone and occasionally hang out on YouTube, Facebook, TikTok, Instagram, Twitter, or whatever, you’ve probably noticed short, blatantly fake ads for mobile games. Something that normally logically should be prohibited since it seems false advertising, but, as you will see, it is actually a real Eldorado. We will see how and why in this video.
- Outbid is not lying
- Sex always works…
- When lying becomes part of the game…
- Who benefits from the crime?
- So what needs to be done?
The following text is a transcript of the previous video.
Outbid is not lying
Let’s start with level 1: superiority with a hint of lies. Here, see for example this little excerpt to promote the mobile game Saint Seiya Awakening. In fact, what happens in this kind of ultra-shaming campaign is that the video becomes so ridiculous and oversold, that we want to talk about it, share it, just to make fun of the advertising… And by doing so, we’re doing exactly what the creators of this ad expect us to do.
It is essential to relocate what an advertiser expects: attention, reaction and, if possible, sharing, to attract the virality of your message. In the context of Saint Seiya Awakening, it is not that the budget was around €50 for the entire campaign, far from it. The goal is to do something very cheap in order to create a buzz.
Sex always works…
This category is quite strange. These are ads that openly exaggerate the graphics and gameplay of their games. Others, like Legends of the Phoenix, literally copy tons of costumes from another game called Love Nikki in their ads. And the height of malice is that these stolen sequences and totally fake creations often have a strong sexy, even downright kinky side.
This sexualization of mobile game ads is a fairly common practice in this industry. There is a particularly revealing example, that of Evony, a strategic management game, based on waiting time. A recipe that you have probably seen 1000 times if you are used to mobile games… Except that Evony is in the middle of this jungle, full of clones like him, and tries to innovate in his communication. At first they try classic, heavy armor and highlighting the free side of the game… But obviously, it didn’t work… Then, in another campaign, they started Put a woman who calls you “My Lord”. Then the young woman shows her breast more generously.and invites you to play this game discreetly, in capital letters, please… The final campaign is frankly casual, with a woman undressing very clearly, dressed, far from being medieval…
When lying becomes part of the game…
Surely you have already seen these ads for super simple puzzles that you are asked to solve with just a few taps.. If you ever get intrigued and install the game, you’ll probably end up with something that has nothing to do with it! A super classic action adventure game, or a game like Candy Crush where you have to manipulate colored balls to solve increasingly difficult boards and develop a little watermark story. This is precisely what GardenScape and HomeScape offer, extremely popular games that monopolize Google PlayStore and Apple AppStore. And imagine that they too have played the fake fake puzzle game that sends you back to something else.
The publisher of the two games, Playrix, was caught in 2020 by the English authority in charge of monitoring advertising, because its communication is openly false. The joke is that, to cover themselves, Playrix has integrated puzzles into their game, in the form of little bonus levels. There are a total of 10 of the thousands of levels on offer, so it’s pretty rare, but it does serve as a defense in case of an accusation. Except that the authority rejected these announcements, forcing Plairix to withdraw them, just to send a strong message to developers. Even if you incorporate these fake levels into your games, if they do not represent the main gameplay of the game, then the misleading advertising should be removed. For the record, only 0.03% of Homescape and GardenScape players had access to a puzzle level, through which many players had come. And as an information, Playrix had protected itself by specifying that the pub does not necessarily represent the gameplay of the game, so we are in a blur where ethics are not appropriate.
Who benefits from the crime?
Teaser ads help you stand out in the highly competitive world of mobile gaming. This is even more true for free games, which are somewhat similar. All mobile game publishers, midgets and giants alike, take advantage of this by fighting each other with more junk ads. However, one major player is excluded from this equation: Google. And more broadly, social networks. In fact, these ads are broadcast, among others, on YouTube, Facebook, Instagram; which helps them generate colossal traffic in buying media to stream. Also, as these ads are often effective because they are manipulated, they lead to installs and therefore many clicks. You may know it, but every click on an ad boosts its effectiveness and, by extension, the place where it has been broadcast: it is an exchange of best practices between unscrupulous publishers and platforms whose business model is based on display advertising . Money is flowing, but regulation is struggling to take off, for two reasons: digital always goes much faster than legislative, but also because we are talking about staggering volumes.
Some publishers were caught red-handed, like Playrix, but that’s clearly not the mainstream. Thousands of small mobile gamers launch their deceptive campaigns every month without control or restriction. Doing some research on the subject, we were able to notice that Facebook Gaming, in particular, had dedicated a video highlighting Eighty-Nine Trillion. It is a studio for mobile games and Facebook games. He sells them with false advertisements full of common sense, asset theft, sexist, misogynistic and even transphobic postures. It’s not really glorious, and once again it shows that studios don’t hesitate to drop surprises to promote the mobile games they produce. It is a common practice and accepted by everyone in the industry as it allows players to generate money. A kind of ethics at two speeds.
So what needs to be done?
There are several solutions to deal with this problem: do not see these ads and skip them as soon as possible or, above all, do not click on them. In fact, by clicking on it, you risk enhancing the ad and making it officially effective. It is also possible to avoid clicking on the ad and check on YouTube, for example, the gameplay of the game in order to obtain a complete and unbiased opinion. This can be fun to watch; some YouTube channels also specialize in comparing game trailers, which can also create some pleasant surprises: sometimes the ad faithfully represents the game. But since false advertisements are legion, it is difficult to avoid doubts. In the meantime, laws may take time to settle around this practice, which is proving terribly profitable for studios. And if we’re being completely honest, there’s even a bit of fun in watching these fake games and playing the game of seven similarities with already known titles…