Ads & Why I Don’t Use AdBlock

First post in ages, I’ve been incredibly lax about this in the last year or so but I’m finally pulling my finger out and using this blog for what it’s intended for: a blog for those of us that make up Bit By Bit Games to talk about things we’re working on, find interesting, cool or just newsworthy.

So to start off I’m going to talk about AdBlock and it’s variants (AdBlock Plus).  Best type of browser plugin ever?  I certainly used to think so.  Who wants to see ads everywhere on your favourite websites?  Why on earth would you want to take an extra 20 seconds to view an ad on YouTube before you view the latest and greatest viral Psy video or Unity3D Shader Tutorial?  Facebook recommending things to you that you might like?  AdBlock it!  I’ve used AdBlock in its various incarnations since it was first created, un-cluttering the web and seeing websites “as they were originally designed” without any of the horrible money-grubbing banner ads interfering with my browsing experience.

Then a few of weeks ago I had a thought, “I wonder if any income we make from Ads in our next game will be worth the effort it took to incorporate them without ruining the gameplay or visual style?”.  Our next game is going to have ads that can be removed via IAP, we’ll finally be saying more about that and the game itself soon.

After that, I made the connection that my livelihood, for the foreseeable future, is inexorably linked with the success of the Advertising in the game.  A few days later, Google removed the Android version of AdBlock from Google Play (ostensibly because of its need for root access to your phone for it to work) and I realised it isn’t just Websites that can be affected by AdBlocking, it’s directly possible for mobile games to have a major source of revenue completely cut out of the loop and made irrelevant.  Which is something I’ve been doing to my favourite websites for over a decade.  What did I think kept those websites running?  Kind thoughts and hugs?  No, the majority of websites on the internet live and die based on ad-revenue and ad-revenue is directly connected to how many visitors to that site actually see the ad.

The majority of ads now really aren’t anywhere near as bad/glaring/annoying as they were in the early days of the internet, I can tolerate them.  Also, I do at least as much website browsing on my iPad now as I do on my PC or MacBook and the ads don’t bother me in Safari most of the time so why should I go out of my way to block them on PC/Mac?

So yeah, I decided I really didn’t want to be hypocritical enough to release a game that depends on users seeing the adverts being served to it when I’m not even supporting the websites I make daily use of in the same way.  AdBlock’s turned off and it’s staying off.

If you’re interested in reading any more views on the pros/cons of using AdBlock and how its use can directly affect what websites have to do to drive traffic so that their Ad impressions pay them enough to be professional and keep the sites up & running, Ben Kuchera of the excellent Penny Arcade Report has a great article about it here and John Walker of the also-excellent Rock, Paper, Shotgun has a very good response to some of the points in it on his personal blog here.  There’s been some great other posts on the subject of the lowest common denominator tactics some sites adopt to drive page views in the last day or so, (for example Leigh Alexander’s post on her blog entitled “Yes, And?”), but I’m personally more focused on the AdBlock aspects of the discussion and how it ties into games.