I have found the free games on the App Store to be in a very sorry state of affairs. As much as I enjoy gaming, I’ve never bothered much with games on my iPod, as the screen was much too small. The iPad, however, is just the right size for some casual gaming if I find myself with a spare ten minutes or am not in the mood for reading when I go to bed.
Unfortunately, the high levels of advertising that goes on within these games is so intrusive it completely pulls me out of the ‘zone’ and irritates the hell out of me. I’ve ended up hating games I was curious about and deleted them. I wouldn’t be too bothered with an advertising strip along the top or bottom of the screen as that has become so normal now I can just ignore them. But I suspect that that is the problem – the banner ads aren’t getting clicks, except when people accidentally press them because their screen is too small or their fingers are too fat (often the latter in my case).
In place of these ad banners, we are given full screen ads in between levels and because App Store games are designed to be played ‘on the go’, the levels are very short and so you end up seeing these ads a lot. Full screen ones are a pain, but the ones that truly get my goat are the videos that start playing. In much the same fashion as YouTube ads, these cannot be skipped for several seconds. I’m pulled out of my game to watch a video ad for several seconds before I am able to hit the skip button and return to my game.
The one that really left a sour taste in my mouth (and kicked off this little rant) was in the demo for Cut The Rope, a simplistic yet clever little game that I was enjoying – in spite of the full screen ads that kept popping up. However, in one of the levels, I noticed the little green thing I am meant to feed wasn’t on the screen as he should be (I’m not sure if I’m remembering this correctly, but I think the creature had a paper bag over its head). As it was a demo, I assumed this was another feature to the game it was demoing. I pressed on this ‘new feature’ only for an ad for the full game to pop up. I was incandescent with rage. I had been tricked, in the middle of a level, into bringing up an ad.
This is a really shitty state of affairs to be conducting demos of games. Call me old fashioned, but I think the demo ITSELF should be the advert. A demo should be saying to the potential buyer, “This game is really cool, isn’t it? For £1.99 the whole thing can be yours.” It should not be saying, “These ads are fucking annoying, aren’t they? For £1.99 they can be gone forever!” I would understand if it was a small, obscure developer trying to make some money, but so far, I have been looking at games on the bestsellers list of 2013. I have been playing games such as Angry Birds, Cut The Rope and Sonic Dash. The latter I could not go anymore than thirty seconds without an ad. Yes, Sonic, the game series where your goal is to run as fast as you can without interruption, is now throwing ads at you multiple times throughout a zone. And you know what the saddest part is? It is so blatantly obvious that the levels are designed to allow for this kind of advertising.
Another annoying aspect to these games is their every attempt to get me to spend money in-game. “Hey, since you’re not going to buy this game, would you at least like to spend some of your precious money on buying extra lives? Extra continues? How about bullshit power-ups?” I’m convinced the game Dead Pixel is designed so that you can’t really progress without spending some money on power-ups to make the game more manageable.
The only free game I have so far found to not be a complete pain in the arse is called Rainbow Unicorn Attack 2 (and this is one of those occasions when you really shouldn’t judge a game by its name. It’s very simplistic, but challenging, fun and addictive.) While the game does have ads, they are not in-game, and the game has several continues, so you can go a reasonable length without seeing any. While there are hints to do some in-game purchasing of extra continues, the game is not so cheaply designed that you couldn’t play for more than ten seconds without them.
All of this advertising in games has left a really sour taste in my mouth and rather than encouraging me to buy the full games, it has made me very angry and never wanting to have anything more to do with them.