A Closer Look: Why Advertisers Use Fake Mobile Game Ads


Have you ever found yourself clicking on a mobile game ad, expecting an exciting experience, only to realize that the game you downloaded doesn’t match the advertised content? Welcome to the world of fake mobile game ads, where deception and disappointment are everywhere. Let’s delve into the intricacies of these deceptive advertisements, examining their motivations, the different types, and what you need to know about them. Let’s dive in!

What is a fake mobile game ad?

What exactly constitutes a fake mobile game ad? These advertisements are designed to mislead users with exaggerated claims about the game’s features, graphics, or rewards. They entice players with promises of thrilling adventures or mind-blowing challenges, only to deliver a vastly different experience once the game is downloaded. The actual gameplay often fails to live up to the representations made in the advertisement, leaving users feeling misled and dissatisfied.

Let’s examine a few infamous examples:


Source: i3Stars

Homescapes by Playrix ads are usually the first to come to mind when discussing fake mobile game ads. In these ads, we see the game character in various dangerous situations where players must use pin-pulling mechanics to rescue them. Initially a match-3 game, Homescapes misleads the users on gameplay, the graphics, and the story. The pin-pulling mechanic and the story provoke users to save the character. In addition, most of these are ‘’fail-ads’’ in which the hypothetical user fails to save him, provoking real users even more to take action.

Hero War:

Source: i3Stars

Another title with notorious fake ads is Hero War, an idle RPG game with automated battles. In the example above, we see a female character (which is highly common and sometimes over-sexualized) in distress, and the players are given a puzzle to solve and save her. With a similar intention as in the example of Homescpaes, Hero War includes drag-and-drop or pin-pulling mechanics in their ads, which is not the actual gameplay.

Project Makeover:

Known for its 3D ads, Project Makeover presents a female character in adverse conditions, promising a significant makeover in the game. These ads boast higher-quality graphics, exaggerated gameplay, and mechanics that do not align with the reality of the game. Project Makeover also received a huge backlash as many users felt that the advertisements exploited negative stereotypes about appearance and perpetuated unrealistic beauty standards.

Royal Match:

Source: i3Stars

Even Royal Match, one of the most popular match-3 games with nearly 55 million monthly active users, is immune to the trend. In the ads, real gameplay is merged with exaggerated scenes. Similar to other examples, the game character is placed in dangerous situations that are either not in the game or pop up very rarely between levels.

How Does Fake Ads Affect the Players and the Industry?

When players encounter a compelling advertisement for a mobile game, they often have certain expectations based on what they’ve seen in the ad. They may anticipate exciting gameplay mechanics, stunning graphics, or enticing rewards that were highlighted in the advertisement. However, when they actually download and play the game, they may discover that the reality falls far short of what was promised.

People invest their time, sometimes even money, into mobile games, expecting they’ll be enjoyable and fulfilling. Players can feel disappointed and cheated when fake ads fail to deliver the expected experience. As a result, negative reviews and word-of-mouth can damage the game’s reputation and deter potential players.

Impact on Industry Reputation:

False mobile game ads affect not only individual players but also the reputation of the entire gaming industry. Players lose trust in game developers and advertisers when encountering repeated fake ads. New games are approached with skepticism when they are wary of the promises made in ads.

A lack of trust within the gaming community can have a big impact. Players may be less likely to try out new games or make in-game purchases if they’re worried about disappointment. As a result of negative experiences with fake ads, players and the wider public can become disillusioned with the gaming industry.

Here are some user reviews from the Google Play Store and App Store on the games we mentioned above:

But Why Do Advertisers Keep Publishing Fake Ads?

Financial Incentives

Mobile game advertisers are often driven by the desire to maximize profits. The more downloads, ad views and purchases a game generates, the higher its revenue potential. Some advertisers prioritize short-term gains over long-term reputation, so they use misleading or exaggerated ads. This means that fake ads actually work when it comes to catching attention, and as long as the CPI (cost per install) is low and ARPU (average revenue per user) is increasing, there will be more fake ads.

Psychological Tactics to Boost User Engagement

Fake mobile game ads often leverage psychological tactics to engage users and encourage action. Advertisers manipulate user behavior by exploiting cognitive biases like FOMO and instant gratification. Advertising tries to create a sense of urgency or scarcity to compel users to download the game or buy in-app items.

For example, ads can use:

  • Countdown timers
  • Enticing facts (e.g. Only 1% can pass this level!)
  • Limited-time offers
  • Exaggerated claims of exclusive rewards

to make you feel obligated to act now. These tactics tap into users’ emotions and impulsive tendencies, leading them to make the decision to download the game.

Competitive Pressures within the Mobile Gaming Market

Thousands of games compete for user attention and market share in the mobile gaming market. Developers and publishers might feel pressured to use fake ads to stand out. The fear of being overshadowed by competitors can drive advertisers to exaggerate the features and benefits of their games.

Source: Reddit

Are Fake Mobile Game Ads Allowed?

Even though it’s technically illegal to mislead consumers about a product, since free mobile games don’t hurt players economically or in other tangible ways, they simply get away with it. Simply put, no financial damage means no penalties or bans regarding fake mobile game ads.

The most infamous case on this issue is when Playrix, the publisher of Homescapes, received a ban on their misleading ads by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) in October 2020.

Another important factor to remember here is the profit. Ad networks can profit from fake ads if the advertisers invest a lot of money in them. That’s why taking them down wouldn’t be in their best interest.

Final Thoughts

Despite the negative impact on player trust and industry reputation, the persistence of fake ads continues. Advertisers and app owners are trying to make fake ads work better by modifying them in some ways but still presenting false mechanics, graphics, and stories to the users. The challenge of combatting fake ads remains complex and multifaceted, but as users educate themselves better on this issue, fake mobile game ads might lose their prominence.



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