I am not a huge fan of free-to-play games. I find the typical tactics surrounding ads and micro-transactions (especially in mobile free-to-play games) to be intrusive, annoying and often enough to completely destroy the experience of the game. For me a solid, fun, and well-designed game that I have to pay up-front for is almost always worth the investment.
However, every once in awhile I find a game that successfully navigates this world and produces something that I keep coming back to play. Most recently this has been Tap Titans, by Game Hive Corp.
I was very pleasantly surprised by Tap Titans. Not only is it a ridiculously fun game with a dead-simple mechanic — tap the screen to do just about everything — but they approach ads in a rather unique way.
Every once in awhile as I am playing, tapping furiously on the screen to take down the next boss with my adorably cute army of followers, a small screen will pop over the interface of the game delivered to me by the in-game fairy. It will ask me if I want to watch a short video (ad) to receive an in-game bonus. If I say yes it shows me the ad, gives me the reward, and returns me to the game. If I say no, then I simply continue in the game unhindered.
While you are watching the ad, or when the game is closed in general, your little army continues to beat upon whatever critter or boss you happen to be trying to take down at the time and collecting money as you go, so no game progress is lost.
The first time it happened I did not even notice it. I was already tapping on the screen and it took no effort at all to tap the “no" button and move on. The second time I actually stopped to watch the ad because the in-game bonus it offered me was worth the time.
This is a wonderful mechanic. The game is rewarding me for taking the time to watch an ad, but it is not punishing me because I choose not to. It is also placing the ads in the context of the game, rather than just overlaying them awkwardly over the interface.
This is a model that so many other free-to-play games could adopt, and in my opinion should. There is a lot to be learned from what Tap Titans has designed.