I got a little depressed while watching the Super Bowl Yesterday. No, it wasn’t because I was rooting for the Seahawks. Instead, it was because of the commercials, and how several of them promoted free-to-play mobile games.
As you probably know, the Super Bowl is a cultural phenomenon in America, the one time a year when people who don’t watch football — or even TV — gather together to indulge themselves in the spectacle of large, sweaty men banging into each other. Well, some of us watch that more than once a year. Football, that is.
As ads for Game of War, Clash of Clans, and Heroes Charge lit up my screen, I wondered how many impressionable non-gamers were seeing for the first time, phrases like “Free to play!” and “Download now!” and rushing to their smartphones to try out this totally new “free” game. I wondered how many of them would be out of energy 10 minutes later and, given the choice to wait or pay, would choose to wait, see the game for what it truly is, and leave gaming forever, with “free to play” leaving a particularly bad taste in their mouths.
While an article by Kyle Orland on Ars Technica this morning provided good reasons for why mobile gaming, and not traditional console or PC gaming companies targeted the Super Bowl, I still worry that grandmothers and crazy uncles nationwide, as well as younger non-gamers looking for something else to do with their smartphones took these ads to heart and will never again touch free to play gaming as a result.
Maybe you’re of a mind that that’s a good thing. There are plenty of PC and console free-to-play games that are nothing more than gussied-up mobile games. But if you don’t think that way, if you believe in “good” free-to-play games, don’t let your friends and family think that what they saw during the Super Bowl was all there is. Maybe Dad would like World of Tanks. Maybe Cousin Susan would like Landmark (not technically free-to-play yet, but you get the idea).
It might be that’ll happen on its own. Of the 72 Super Bowl ads listed on Hulu by order of popularity, Heroes Charge clocks in at #72, Game of War at #66, and Clash of Clans — a game I’ve heard reasonably good things about, even before seeing “Lie-am” Neeson’s sublime performance — is #4. So the “best” game is already winning out, at least by that measure.
And maybe the good that came from those Super Bowl ads was that those non-gamer types will finally realize that gaming isn’t just done by nerds and geeks in their parents’ basements but by people who watch the biggest sports event of the year. I mean, why else would those companies advertise alongside the beer and truck vendors if not to target the same audience? Now’s the perfect time to capitalize on the awareness generated by those ads, so start recruiting!