Google Play’s Ad Policy: Recap
When Google first announced its ad policy changes, many hyper-casual developers were concerned about the future of their games.
After all, they display ads for a living.
To remind you, the updated Google Play policy bans developers from using:
- Interstitial ads that appear unexpectedly when the user has chosen to do something else (e.g. continue, claim rewards…)
- Ads that suddenly appear during gameplay or at the start of a content segment
- Video interstitial ads that pop up before the app’s loading screen
- Interstitial ads that can’t be closed after 15 seconds
The first two updates caused the most concern among developers.
Ads that appear after users tap a button used to be among the most popular interstitial ad placements in hyper-casual games. Also, some games that don’t have a lot of pauses would also deliver ads during gameplay.
Now, developers needed to find workarounds.
They needed to find a way to make Google Play (and users) happy, and keep their games profitable.
This version of Google Play’s ad policy was announced in August and went into effect on September 30th. This means developers had enough time to prepare and adjust their games to the new rules.
Here’s how they did it.
Bridge Race by Supersonic Studios was the #1 downloaded hyper-casual title in 2021 and is still at the top in 2022.
Before Google changed its ad policy, the game was filled with disruptive after-tap ads and those that appeared during gameplay.
The ads are still here, but with a couple of tweaks.
Tap to Start
When Bridge Race players want to begin a new game, they should no longer be surprised to see an ad before they start.
Next to the “tap to start” button, there is now a video sign informing players that they will see an ad before they begin playing.
👍The good: The ad placement is not hidden or camouflaged just to please Google Play. It clearly makes players aware of the upcoming ad.
👎The not-so-good: The video sign is identical to those for rewarded video ads, so players might get confused and expect a reward for watching it.
Supersonic Studios also made changes to their interstitial ad placements that appear during gameplay.
To make them less surprising, they introduced timers.
While players play the game, a 5-second timer appears in the right corner of the screen, warning them that an ad is about to start.
👍The good: The timer is pretty big and colorful, and its five-second duration is just enough to help players prepare for the upcoming break.
👎The not-so-good: If players are very focused on gameplay, there is a fair chance they won’t notice the timer.
Snake Lite by Hippo Lab was the 4th most downloaded game in Q3 2022 (AppMagic). The game mysteriously rose to the top of the hyper-casual charts in the second half of 2022.
In one of our latest articles we analyzed Snake Lite in detail, so if you want to know more, make sure to give it a read.
“Ad is About to Show”
Snake Lite is filled with interstitial ads, but they never appear during gameplay.
They typically appear when players finish a game, while they explore the game’s shop, customization options, etc.
In all of these situations, before an ad appears, the game warns players about it with two signs — “Ad is about to show” and “Loading ad”.
Interestingly, this game doesn’t even have to inform players about all these ads. End-of-game ads are not affected by Google Play’s policy, so it’s still okay if they appear suddenly.
👍The good: Warning players about interstitial ad placements in all situations, even when it’s not mandatory.
👎The not-so-good: The sign that informs players appears rapidly before the ad loads, so this might feel disruptive.
Snow Race by Goodroid was the 7th most downloaded hyper-casual title in November 2022 (AppMagic).
The game works similarly to Bridge Race, but, instead of stacking, players race while rolling large snowballs. Since racing games have long-lasting gameplay, they usually need to show ads during it to stay profitable.
Just like Bridge Race, this game also interrupts the players’ racing sessions with occasional interstitial ad placements.
In the same spirit, Snow Race introduced a five-second timer that announces upcoming ads. The timer also appears in the top right corner of the screen, so it doesn’t interfere with the gameplay.
👍The good: The countdown duration of five seconds.
👎The not-so-good: Players will have a hard time noticing the timer because it’s small and blends in with the background. Because of this, it appears that it was primarily designed for Google Play rather than the players.
Moon Pioneer is a game from the arcade idle genre developed by Voodoo. In this game, players explore distant planets and make use of their natural resources. To do this, they need to run and stack different items.
Similar to racing games, in this game, there are not a lot of gameplay pauses to display ads. For this reason, they appear while playing.
10-Second Timer (Halftime)
In Moon Pioneer, interstitial ad placements appear once every 60 seconds. We know this because some players actually timed them to complain about it in app store reviews.
In other words, players are definitely not happy with the number of ads in this game.
However, there is one thing that makes these ads more bearable — the timers.
Before an ad appears, a big 10-second timer appears on top of the players’ screens. To make them less generic, Voodoo has also added a sign “half time in” next to the timer.
👍The good: The timers are big so it’s almost impossible not to notice them. Also, it’s good to use the phrase “halftime” because players might perceive it more positively than, for example, “ad break”.
👎The not-so-good: Since ads appear every 60 seconds, it might be better if the countdown is shorter than 10 seconds. This way, players are alerted about ads every 50 seconds.
Line Color 3D
Line Color 3D by tastypill is a popular hyper-casual title with over 100 million downloads. In this relaxing coloring game, players need to paint a road while avoiding obstacles.
Because players rarely play games like this for long, the developers try to monetize them as soon as possible — using interstitial ad placements.
When players finish a level in Line Color 3D, they get coins as a reward. But, in order to proceed and claim coins, they have to watch an ad. They have two options:
- Watch a rewarded video ad and get 3x more coins
- Watch an interstitial ad to claim what they earned
Previously, the players who don’t want to watch rewarded ads would tap “claim”, and an interstitial ad would suddenly appear. Now, they are warned about it with a play sign next to it.
👍The good: The play sign is different from the one next to the rewarded ad, which should make it clear that this is an ordinary ad. Also, since players need to watch an ad either way, this might encourage more of them to choose rewarded video ads.
👎The not-so-good: Since they both come in the form of a button, some players won’t realize that these ads don’t bring them rewards.
Final Thoughts on Interstitial Ad Placements
We’re going to be completely honest with you.
Finding five games that follow Google Play’s guidelines has been extremely difficult. In our search, we played 30+ top hyper-casual games, and these were the only five that are compliant with the new rules.
Others are still filled with disruptive ads.
Obviously, a lot of hyper-casual developers aren’t taking Google’s threats seriously.
This might backfire on them soon.
Regarding the games that follow the rules about interstitial ad placements, most of them have good strategies. Over time, we can expect them to become even smarter.
Are you having trouble monetizing your hyper-casual game? With MyAppFree’s solution, you can monetize your game without having to use intrusive ad formats. Reach out to us to hear more details!