You’ve likely seen that advert with Kate Upton walking through a massive medieval battlefield completely unharmed. You may not even have noticed the battlefield past how great her… dress is. Yeah. Anyway, can you even remember what the advert was for? Some kind of mobile game… Clash of Clans, was it? No, that one has animated ads with flying pigs and all sorts. That advert is in fact for Clash of Clans clone, game of War. Not that it matters- just another crappy mobile game you play on the train between work and getting home to play a real game like Counter Strike or FIFA, right? But dear reader- that’s where you’d be wrong! These ads are very important because they show exactly how lucrative that silly little free to play, tap away, pay 50p for an extra cannon, genre is. When was the last time you saw a Candy Crush advert sandwiched between two appearances of the GoCompare tenor? Pretty recently, I bet. But when was the last time you saw an advert for a console, PC or handheld game on TV, aside from big releases like Super Smash Bros, Assassins Creed or Battlefield? Not so recently, I expect.
The fact is we’re still at the tail end of a recession and we’re also heading into a new era of games with the arrival of PS4 and XB1. And what studios do you expect did well when people didn’t have the money to fork out for a new Halo? That’s right, freemium developers- people like Rovio, Zynga and Supercell. So is it really so bad that these companies are able to release games for minimal cost based around mindless grinding and waiting for time limits to be up, and then use the extortionate profits to produce lavish commercials?
Even within the mobile gaming market, this puts the companies that started earlier at massive advantage to small studios who are only just now getting their games through into the megastores of Google and Apple and into players’ idle palms. If you can pay for an advert like that you can pay your way through to the top of the App Store- and if you can get there, with new people getting smartphones all the time, you can stay there. Perhaps students, as “trend setters,” should try and support smaller developers on the App and Play Stores, by seeking out new releases and games that might be found a little further down the list- and recommending hidden gems to friends and family. The main message should be- if the game you’re playing seems pretty simple, wants money to get better at it (or avoid time limits) and also happens to have adverts featuring Pixar level special effects and Kevin Bacon calibre actors, maybe it’s time to reconsider downloading it because that game’s target audience is not the shallow pocketed student, but the “whale” with more money than sense. And I’d hope students have more sense than that.
Of course, misleading adverts for games are nothing new. Indeed, during times of primitive graphics such as on the Atari, NES and Master System, live action or animation were essential to sell the “imagination” behind a game’s pixelated final product. Nobody watching telly wants to see a blown up closeup of a Koopa Troopa sprite, but a funny cartoon of it might do- and since when did a music video featuring a gender bent Link and the rest of the Zelda cast singing about why you should buy a SNES have anything to do with gameplay? So really, as much as I’d love to complain, maybe these ads aren’t the curtain call for us to start declaring mobile games as the end of the industry as we know it. Perhaps it’s merely a wake-up call from mobile developers to buck up their ideas, get with the players of the twenty-first century, and start cutting costs so that they can put hot actresses in their adverts and jump up the queue in the App Store. Just kidding. That would be awful. But the kind of people who only want to play mobile games are doing it as a small get away from a commute or a doctor’s waiting room. They’re not really interested in the semantics behind them all. So let them fling their birds and match their sweets whilst dreaming of Kate Upton egging them on seductively, and let us in the know get back to disarming bombs, meteor spiking anime swordsmen and assassinating presidents. In other words- vote with your wallets.