Mobile game ads are weird, misleading — and effective

Mobile games are a huge part of the billion-dollar video game industry. So why do they rely so heavily on bizarre, misleading ads?
Posted at 11:23 AM, Jun 14, 2023

If you've been anywhere online without an adblocker recently, you’ve probably seen ads like this. They're shocking, often racy, and generally frustrating — and they have very little to do with the actual games they're supposed to be advertising. 

Mobile games, designed specifically for phones and tablets, are a massive part of the video game industry — played by over 2 billion (yes, billion) people worldwide. But that huge global market is propelled by misleading and provocative ad campaigns, which seem more focused on drawing a reaction than actually convincing people to play their game.

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The absurdity of many mobile game ads has us asking: Who is behind all this? And do these ads actually work? 

We talked with advertisers and analysts to understand how and why mobile game ads look the way they do — and how they might change as consumers and regulators start to pay more attention to their tactics.