How mobile game ads become weird?

We all have seen ads, it’s everywhere and anywhere possible, and while some ads captivate us in some way or another, some types of ads are especially known for their weird nature, Mobile games are especially popular for being weird or even sometimes inappropriate, but has it always been like this? Or there were a set of events that led to this point, to find out, I went back to the feature phones era to check if things have always been like this.


Game ads in the feature phones age: 

Back in the mid-2000s mobile games ads consisted mostly of pictures you can see on websites or Print ads that have a phone’s screen in one of the corners to showcase what the game actually looks like.

an ad for The Elder Scrolls 4 Oblivion

An ad for DOOM RPG

An ad for Assassins Creed 1

Very few companies tried to make a trailer for their mobile games, but of course, there were some notable exceptions like the Rovio (you might know them from angry birds), and FromSoftware (and yes I mean the dark souls FromSoftware).


Rovio Mobile – Darkest Fear 3:

Armored Core Mobile 3


In the early smartphones era (late 2008) more companies started experimenting with the idea of trailers for mobile games, some notable mentions for these ads/ trailers are from companies are, THQ wireless, EA (again), and Gameloft, with the last releasing a cinematic trailer for its hack n slash game hero of Sparta.


THQ Wireless – Saints Row 2 for mobile

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix Mobile Trailer


Hero of Sparta – Cinematic trailer by Gameloft

Games ads in the early smartphones era:

With the announcement of the very first iPhone in 2007, came a new era for mobile devices, however, game companies didn’t take it too seriously up until 2009, it was when every company had to release a game on the system, the games ranged from upgraded versions of java games with fancy 3D graphics, or a terrible (maybe too ambitious) mobile port of a famous franchise, in the other hand releasing trailers for java games has become a stable at that point and every major company was doing it, especially if the game was a part of bigger franchises.

WWE Smackdown vs Raw 2010 – Trailer

Driver™ – iPhone / iPod touch trailer by Gameloft

Assassin’s Creed II – Mobile game trailer


The rise of casual games: 

pretty much after and for a while (specifically the years from 2009 till 2016) things were normal for mobile games ads, the ads consisted of normal gameplay or sometimes a live-action scene to promote the game, most noticeable ads from this era are Clash Of Clans and Lord mobile ads and I want to highlight the super ball add for clash of clans here because it was considered one of the best in that season (side note: I don’t understand why would anyone unlist such a great ad)


The rise of “terrible mobile ads”

In 2016 Lords mobile made a huge campaign on every platform you could think of, which is normal for any big game but the key difference was the creatives they used, the ads featured a heavily scripted sense of alleged players reacting to prerendered footage of the game, what’s noticeable about the whole thing is that the terrible level of acting, I’ll let you be the judge here.



Ever since then, companies realized that they can post these types of ads and get the results they want + people would generally make videos about these ads which would amount to more people getting curious about the game and trying it, so the ads only kept getting weirder.


are weird ads new phenomena?:

Weird ads aren’t new by themselves, we can go back as far as the late ’80s and we would find weird ads, and a great example of this is Sega’s Genesis and its famous campaign (Genesis does what Nintendon’t)

SEGA Genesis Commercials – Genesis does what Nintendon’t!

Sega isn’t alone in this, both Nintendo, sony, and Microsoft had weird ads, What’s the best way to highlight that you can control Kerby with your finger? Of course, having a giant finger that hangs out with kerby 🙂 

Kirby Canvas Curse Commercial

This ad’s title is the only description it needs (life is short)

Life is Short (Original Xbox advert banned)

This ad showcases the old vs the new type of (toys) in a mysterious (and low-key creepy) way

PS3 Baby commercial

The rise of hyper-casual games:

Hyper casual games (by design) are easy to pick up and appeal to the widest audience possible, the target audience for this genre is usually anyone with a mobile phone, and it usually tops the charts, especially free games, all these elements made the hyper-casual scene one of the most difficult to pierce through especially when it comes to players acquisition, so once hyper casual publishers know they have an easy to pick up and an addicting game, they would do anything possible to get the player to just download it, and then trust that the game would take it from there, this resulted in a verity of user acquisition methods and (of course) a verity of weird ads.

Casual games catching up:

Casual games took notice of what hyper-casual games are doing and decided to do the same, and since casual games usually have bigger budgets for marketing, this resulted in a lot, and I mean A LOT of CG (computer graphics) ads, there are too many of them to count but I highlighted some of the noticeable types.

Pull the pin ads:

I don’t know what’s so captivating about this type of puzzle game but it is really common in ads for some reason



The (oh the misery) ads:

This type provides a sad scenario that encourages the viewer to engage and help the character in distress



The numbers game ads: 

These ads heavily feature dealing with numbers, either subtracting adding dividing, or multiplying you name it.

Monster Room Maze game ads ‘1’

Fishdom game ads shorts ’58’ Stone Break Make way survival

The weird scenarios ads:

This type of ad is my favorite, the way it works is by providing a totally fictional scenario that would evolve to weird conclusions, and it usually ends on a cliff hanger so you would want to play the game yourself just to know what’s going on.

Garden Affairs game ads ’15’ tragic story of big sister

Lily’s Garden – Wait, Lily faked it?!


The oversexualized ads:

I’m not going to provide examples for this type but I wanted to say that it exists, and it’s probably one the most overused types of ads, I hope it disappears but I’m sure it won’t as long as it is working.


The fake gaming ads (commentary and gameplay)

This type features either fake gameplay from other games or someone acting like they are giving commentary over their gameplay.

Fake commentary:

Fake gameplay:

Challenging the player ads:

The whole point of this type is to make the viewer feel challenged so it would play the game by presenting a high-level gameplay and then saying that only a selected few would be able to reach it, or by playing in the worst way possible that it would make the viewer angry and frustrated they would install the game just to do it themselves and winning.




Can you save him?

♬ original sound – Spoilz Games – Spoilz |  سپويلز


What makes an ad good:

 it depends on whom you might ask but generally, if it does its job then it is good, however, if you asked me personally, I would say that ads that contain a good message are the best type, other than that I prefer the ads that stick to the product and showcases what’s great about it instead of click-baiting or misleading the viewer.


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