While I showed in my last post how some developers have integrated ads well to make them a seamless and even valuable part of game play, Kim Kardashian: Hollywood (iOS | Android) is a great example where ads came in as an afterthought.
Regardless of what you think of the Kardashians (E! thinks they are worth $100 million over four years), Glu’s Kim Kardashian:Hollywood game is well crafted with detailed story arcs and a fine tuned energy mechanic. That drive not to fail your date, your fans or Kim’s wishes has kept the app solidly in the top 20 grossing games list and generating an estimated $100K a day from in-app purchases on iOS.
The ad integration though is a bit jarring: sporadically when you leave a location, the screen goes white and a static overlay ad is displayed. It competes a bit with other things that happen when you leave a location, like calls from different characters, and feels out of place.
A more interesting and integrated approach would be to insert the ads when you travel from location to location. Rather than take the bus from LAX to Hollywood, take an upgraded Uber for free (or less game cash) by watching a video ad. What a better fit for this game than a brand picking up the tab.
It’s small tweak, but it provides a better integrated experience by giving value to the player and a halo effect to the advertiser.
In reality I know that for most large studios, the ad group is a different corporate function and not at the table during the design stage, but maybe Glu can add it to their new game featuring Katy Perry.
You and I Can’t Bank on Being Kim Kardashian
When your app is grossing $100K a day on iOS you have the luxury of not having ads. Most notably King.com initially had ads in Candy Crush Saga but when the game took off they could afford to remove them and focus more on the user experience. Kim Kardashian: Hollywood could forgo ads at this point and focus on in-game sponsorships of products that could be introduced in new quests and story arcs.
But for most of us, ads can be and are an integral part of the business model and as such should be part of every game’s core design.