Is it worth it to advertise on mobile games

Games on the smartphone - Brutal advertising: at some point the fun stops

This is not for you. She feels that immediately. Something is wrong. Lena holds her hand over the iPad and waits for the picture to disappear, it's an instinct.

Lena sat on the sofa and played "Idle Miner Tycoon", one of the most popular game apps for smartphones and tablets. It's sweet how the little miners work and dig tirelessly, cute little guys with googly eyes and huge heads. The game is approved for ages four and up. Lena is nine. But then suddenly animated breasts slide onto the screen, filling the format. A sniper's crosshair appears, he aims and shoots, blood splatters. It's an advertisement for more video games. These are scenes that no four-year-old or nine-year-old child should see.

Hundreds of thousands of cell phones were also lying under German Christmas trees this year. Newly presented children and young people are stocking up on their daddles these days. They download millions of apps from the Internet, digital helpers, music, films - and games. Especially games. The genre is booming.

Be fixated and addictive

The video game market overtook Hollywood film factory this year, breaking the $ 100 billion mark in sales. It has grown 26 times over the past 20 years. The manufacturers generated sales of 36.9 billion dollars in 2016 with mobile games, 31.9 billion with PC games and 29 billion with console games. In 2019, total sales are expected to be 119 billion euros. The world is a playground. Young German cell phone users spend an average of 1000 hours a year with their electronic toys.

These young consumers are a sought-after target group that is difficult to reach for advertisers via traditional media such as television, newspapers and magazines - young, influenceable, enthusiastic.

Parents rarely know exactly what their children are doing on their smartphones. Because keeping track of expenses and content is almost impossible. Apple, Google and other manufacturers advertise the security of their offers with sophisticated age and budget controls. But it is not the price of the many - often free - online games themselves that wash the billions into the coffers. With a whole bunch of tricks, the industry pulls the money out of the pocket of gambling addicts.

Can't go any further? Then buy virtual coins like they used to for the massage bed in the motel! The next level is out of reach? Tools that cost (real) money can help! The digital mini footballer is a drain? Buy him professional shoes and more energy and he'll dash like Lionel Messi!

Play for money

The motto of countless supposedly free farm browser games, medieval simulations or soccer games: "Pay to play". The entire market works according to the drug dealer principle: fix it, get addicted, cash in.

The biggest gold mine for digital PR pioneers, however, is advertising within games - so-called in-game advertising. The industry is exploding. Gone are the days when daddling was considered an anti-social pastime for pale nerds with fear of commitment. The lonely puberty with headphones and tunnel vision sitting between empty pizza boxes in the basement? The cliché is long dead. The question of who plays digital games today is quickly answered: everyone. Man, woman, young, old, morning, evening, always.

Accordingly, video game advertising is no longer just a trickle of sideline for a few dollars anymore. It is the core of the business itself. Because advertisers like to reach their customers where they are emotionally engaged and in good spirits: while playing. The marketer Game Ad Network Ströer speaks of “emotional prime time”. "Gaming is a premium environment for mobile advertising," says a delighted Jean-Baptiste Godinot, Managing Director of the German branch of the French game company Gameloft - "because our players are completely immersed in their gaming universe." In other words, they concentrate on everything that moves.

The world's largest manufacturer of games for mobile devices rents advertising space in its games directly and has more than 2.8 million app downloads per day. Gameloft advertises with hundreds of millions of users from the highly competitive target group of millennials. The 14 to 25 year olds watch less and less classic TV and read less and less magazines. Your leisure activity: playing on your mobile phone. And so, for example, the cosmetics company L’Oréal Paris buys well-known Youtube stars like the “Lochis” for an in-game campaign for men's cosmetics.

Video games in numbers

• 2.6 billion people around the world regularly play video games.

• Approximately $ 100 billion a year is spent on video games around the world.

• 63 percent of German players accept in-game advertising if the download remains free of charge.

• Young Germans spend 2.8 hours a day with their smartphones.

• Overall, Americans spend 50 million hours a day playing video games.

• The industry generates 8 billion dollars annually from advertising in video games alone.

Turnover with in-game advertising is now around 8 billion dollars per year, and the trend is growing rapidly. In 2004 it was a paltry $ 28 million. Three models determine the market:

Static in-game advertising works like product placements in James Bond films or "Sex and the City": In the game, there are permanently programmed real cars, beverage brands, sports shoes and product logos - for example as lettering on racing cars or as "real" ones. McDonald's branch in the virtual worlds of the "Sims".

Dynamic in-game advertising is far more attractive for companies: Here, changing advertising messages are interspersed directly into the game via the Internet - as in the case of nine-year-old Lena on the sofa. Film clips run during game breaks, marketed by specialized agencies or the game manufacturers themselves. And those who voluntarily watch a video in the game are often allowed to continue playing as a reward. The deal is: fun against attention. One of the pioneers: Barack Obama. In the US election campaign in 2008, he advertised himself in several Xbox games in ten states in which a particularly large number of voters were still undecided.

Finally, so-called ad games are free games that are intended to promote loyalty to a single brand. The best-known example is the grouse hunt, the free advertising game by the Scottish whiskey brand Johnnie Walker, which sparked a global mass murder of digital poultry in 1999.

But the bigger the market, the clearer the gaps in the control system become. Because the clips are not just about fruit juice and racing cars: In supposedly harmless games released for kindergarten children in the Apple App Store, such as “Splashy Fish” (released for ages four and up), advertising appears that looks like a sex chat. During breaks in the commercials of the game "Idle Miner Tycoon" - developed in just eight weeks by five resourceful students at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology - erotic Amazons appear, there is shooting and murder, certainly without the knowledge of the manufacturer Fluffy Fairy Games. The company could not be reached for comment.

And nobody is responsible

The beloved mine game has been downloaded more than 6.5 million times to date. Not only “Idle Miner Tycoon” and “Splashy Fish” are affected for a long time, but practically all games with in-game advertising. The problem: No independent institution determines how many players of which age play which game - and see which advertising.