tl;dr: Embedded video ads are really annoying, even if you can skip them. You might want to compare your ad revenue to how much traffic you’re actually driving away when people just close your game when they see the ad, especially since most of the people playing your game are offering you helpful feedback, for free, in their spare time.

I’ve played over 100 games, mostly web versions, and I’m starting to get really sick of watching loud embedded videos (especially since it’s the same video for Max Payne 3 over and over again) every time I want to try out a Ludum Dare entry for a couple minutes. Even if the movie is skippable (not all of them are), you’re still adding a loud (usually unmutable), obnoxious barrier that makes it harder for people to play your game. And since the people playing it are doing so in order to give it a rating and offer you some helpful feedback, for free, in their spare time, you’re basically trying to make a profit from them helping you. It seems a little rude/selfish/whatever, which definitely seems to go against the spirit of Ludum Dare.

It’s getting to the point where I’m probably going to start skipping over games that force me to watch an embedded ad. I don’t want to do that because most of the games here are really awesome and the people who made them are rock stars so I want to give them some feedback, but if I’m annoyed, then chances are other people are annoyed too. Also, some people have older/slower computers that might play your game just fine, but lag because of the video. So you might want to compare your ad revenue to how many potential players are just closing out your game as soon as the ad starts.

I understand the need for indie developers to get some return on their games. I pay for hosting and offer it for free to Java and Processing developers, so I get it. And I do run ads on my site, but I try to make them as unobtrusive as possible- right now, just banner ads at the bottom of the screen. I will probably never play embedded video ads.

I’ve been giving developers the benefit of the doubt since most of this complaint is about games hosted on kongregate, and I’m not sure if there’s even a way for you guys to disable that ad. But I’ve also seen embedded ads in games hosted on sites like dropbox. So I figured I’d issue a friendly “hey, that’s kind of obnoxious and might not actually be good for you” gripe to give fellow developers some feedback.

Anyway, does anybody else feel this way? Or am I just getting tired and grouchy after playing so many games?

26 Responses to “A Gripe About Embedded Video Advertisements”

  1. Gjarble says:

    I’ve put games on Kongregate before. I don’t think there’s a way to turn those ads off- they sorta come with the hosting (I do think they have an insta-close button, though). I understand your point about being obtrustive, and I think there are better (for the user) ways to profit from your games, but to play devil’s advocate for a bit: I think, in the case of non-Kongregate games, it may not be the best for the user, but it’s the easiest for the developer to implement- especially in the case of games hosted on services Dropbox rather than the developer’s own site, where banner ads are not an option.

  2. KevinWorkman says:

    Those are valid points, and it sucks that you can’t disable those ads on kongregate. I think that’s pretty crappy on their part, but I guess video ads are here to stay.

    But I guess you’ve sorta explained my annoyance- the focus of Ludum Dare isn’t about making a profit, at least in my humble opinion. I’m all for people providing links to other games they’ve made, or a link to their main site, or even taking their game and expanding it and turning it into something profitable after the contest. But it doesn’t seem LD-esque to try to make money off of people trying to help you out by playing your game.

    Also, video ads might be easier for the developer, but they’re more annoying for the user. It’s also easier for the developer to only make the game available on one operating system. But doing that is rather self-centered in a self-defeating way, which is why most people make their games available on as many systems as possible. Similarly, if a developer really wants to try to offset their costs (which shouldn’t be very high for 48 hours of development and some basic hosting, so I don’t really see the point), they should do it in a way that keeps as many players happy as possible.

  3. Raptor85 says:

    Not a great solution but I’m using adblock+ to filter the ads (by far the worst offenders are the kongregate ones). I’m all for having ad’s to pay for hosting and such but forced video ads are just too much, especially for rating. Even adblock+ though can’t skip one VERY annoying “feature” of kongregate….every 5th game or so it complains about me running adblock+…and every 3 or 4 games it whines that I should create an account to track the games I play….so I’m getting to the same way…if a kongregate link to the game I pretty much skip and move on.

  4. KevinWorkman says:

    Thanks Raptor85, I’m glad I’m not the only one. I was afraid I was just being a crotchety old man.

    I just took another look at kongregate, and it’s ridiculous how little of the screen is devoted to the actual game compared to obnoxious “join now!” prompts and advertisements. Actually, I just saw the “gamestop network” thing at the bottom, which explains quite a bit. Leave it to them to take what should be an awesome concept and turn it into a commercialized annoyance.

    I think I’m done with kongregate now, too.

    • Raptor85 says:

      I’ve also been for the most part skipping games hosted on mediafire…as I can’t simply download the game I have to browse to their site and wait for the javascript link to become active (it actually saves a lot of time being able to just use my browser’s auto-download feature on right click off the link on the games page….have it set to put the file in my Ld testing folder)

      Just waiting 10-20 seconds to click a link, then having to use the standard downloader as it’s a dynamic URL may not sound like a big issue but i’m nearing 300 games rated…the extra minute per game doing all that adds up (wait for link, wait for save dialog box, choose where to save, etc…). Thankfully not all games have that, but if all games i’d rated were on kongregate and mediafire that would be an extra 5 HOURS of rating so far just flat out wasted….in 5 hours i could download and rate another 20-40 games easily (depending on length). Not to mention the fact that after about the hundredth mediafire ad + gripe about me not being a member by the time the game itself comes up you already feel a little biased against it and have to force yourself to make a fair rating.

      • KevinWorkman says:

        Exactly. Plus, many firewalls block sites like mediafire. So not only are the ads and forced wait times on that site really annoying (seriously, how shady do you have to be to have your ad be a big DOWNLOAD button on a site where people are trying to download things), but they also cut out a percentage of possible players. It doesn’t make any sense to use sites like that!

        Part of my goal of my site (I’m not trying to self-advertise, but the site is partly a reaction to this gripe about other sites) is to provide an alternative to sites like mediafire or dropbox, at least for Java and Processing developers. So it’s a little hard to believe that there are simply no good free sites for flash developers that don’t show obnoxious ads and spammy JOIN NOW PLZ messages.

      • Pierrec says:

        I host all my games on Mediafire…I didn’t know users had to wait to download the game…Now I feel terribly bad!

        • KevinWorkman says:

          I can’t check right now as I’m behind a firewall that blocks mediafire, but I’m not sure whether every download has an enforced wait time or not. I know that I’ve seen it during this Ludum Dare, but I don’t know whether your game had it. But that, coupled with not being immediately sure what’s a spammy, dishonest ad (a big download button that isn’t actually a download) and what’s the actual download link, and I’m pretty wary of sites like mediafire.

          I did manage to play and enjoy your game, but I’m not sure whether any other people had trouble getting to it. You seem like a talented developer, so I would suggest looking into getting some basic cheap hosting for yourself!

  5. jeffz says:

    I agree with you.

    When I spent time trying to rate peoples games with my busy schedule, having to sit through an advertisement first on kongregate only fostered negative emotions.

    I’ve made it to 105 ratings though.

    • KevinWorkman says:

      Yeah! It’s a shame that developers can’t turn off those ads, at least during the rating period. I try to give people the benefit of the doubt, but let’s just say that I go into a web game in a much better mindset if I don’t have to sit through an ad or jump through hoops to download the game first.

      We’re playing these games for the benefit of the person who wrote the game. So making us watch ads before doing so is a bit like saying “Oh, you’ll wash my car for free? Cool! But first give me five dollars!”

  6. Axelhein says:

    Not a problem for me, but i do sort of agree with you. I think the kongregate video ads might be US only. I have never seen a video ad on kongregate and i have played a lot of LD games on there.

    • KevinWorkman says:

      Hmm, interesting. The ads seem to be on every game I play on kongregate.

      • spooks says:

        I’m in Canada and I always see the ads, I try to get through them, but sometimes it’s frustrating. I use dropbox, which is free and no ads at all! I really hate the idea of making someone to sit through an 30 second ad to play my ‘prototype’ game. Maybe if it was a full game I could understand…

  7. It’s an interesting point, something that should have been brought up sooner, I think.

    Indeed, ads sucks. Forced-video-ads especially.

    I use Kongregate to host games myself (and know many others who regularly host on similar sites, like Armor Games or Newgrounds). But there are so many advantages to it that I feel it outweighs the minor annoyance of a short (mostly closeable) ad.

    – Ease of use. You get a step-by-step walkthrough on how to host your stuff. Especially for newcomers it can be very stressful to figure out how to host a game on their own in the short time-frame. Dropbox made it easier, sure, but it still lacks instructions.

    – Exposure. A game on Kongregate automatically gets players beyond Ludum Dare, and can grow from there. I’ve learned the first influx of LDers helps the game get attention. Also, typing in the name of the game usually gives you a top-spot in google-results, something that takes time without a dedicated host.

    I once hosted a game myself and uploaded it to Kong a few months later, and it lacked the first wave of competition-voters, thus never getting off the ground outside the competition.

    – Metrics. We can immediately see how many people played the game, how they rated it and what they thought. You can see how long your game stays “fresh” and when it flatlines. Yes, there are possibilities for this for your own site, but they require a lot more work & research.

    – Revenue. Yes, it’s often minor, but it can be a cash-amount you get for a few hundred plays, and that is then /money you made with a game/. The ego-boost is awesome :).

    So yes, ads do suck. But as you say, this is about FUN. We want to MAKE GAMES, and put them out there as quickly as possible to be played. Fiddling around with hosting and metric-tools is definitely not fun, but also complicated and intimidating, so I believe an ad-based host is a valid alternatively.

    (within reason, of course. They “wait 120 sec till download”-site I once landed at pissed me off immensely)

    -Matthew 😛

    • KevinWorkman says:

      Yeah, I definitely understand the perks of a popular site, and even ads. I’m trying to offer a non-evil version of this service for Java and Processing, so I definitely see the benefit to novice developers.

      But I also think that kongregate is taking advantage of its customers. Now that they’ve built up their user base, they can start doing things like forcing video ads. And nobody can really do anything, because they’re locked into the site because it already has the user base they’re targeting. So it’s a bit of an annoying cycle of not having any other choices, which seems to go against the indie developer spirit. At the very least, indie developers might consider looking into alternatives that don’t force the players to watch ads or inundate them with spammy JOIN NOW prompts. Part of being an indie developer, I think, is winning players over who are sick of this crap from big companies. Just something for people to consider.

  8. Keirua says:

    I understand your point (actually, at first I wanted to point out the exposure). However, I don’t quite get why hosting and having metrics is a difficult task ? Of course with a private host you don’t just have to upload your game and you’re done, but a private host nowadays is really cheap and in minutes you can something up and running. Having metrics ain’t that hard either. Create a google analytics account and 5 minutes later you are done.

    Then, for the price of a little more efforts, you have something that you can use to develop your game further : you can put a blog to talk about the evolutions, put some reviews from other websites, and so on. And you can even put advertisement if you want to get money (even though unless you have hundreds of players, it most likely won’t make you rich).

    But yeah, Kongregate has the real advantage of not having any efforts to make to have a good exposure and that’s something I totally understand. I’d love to find a good solution to have the exposure I could have on kongregate with the flexibility of a private host for developping my ideas further, however I did not find any good solution so far.

    • Yes, YOU know how to do it. I know how to do it.

      But 2-3 years ago, when I started, I would’ve been utterly terrified. Newbie gamedevs have a lot of stuff on their minds, and suddenly adding multiple challenges (that only seem tangentially related) does not help AT ALL, especially should that happen during a 48h-gamejam when you’re stressed and panicked and don’t even know wheter you can finish what you’re currently working, not even mentioning how it might fare critically.

      I agree, having an own platform does have its benefits. …once you know how to set it up and take care of it. Until that point arises it’s much more efficient to go with other options.

  9. Keirua says:

    By the way, I’d be curious to know how much money people manage to make with their games on Kongregate. If you have some experience with it or a link to a good article on the subject, feel free to share it !

  10. Keirua says:

    Yep. So that’s what I said. Almost half a million play for less than 1000$ net revenue. Do people understand how ridiculous this is ? Why do people keep using money as a reason.

    But ok, I now get your point on the ease of use of Kongregate. I was thinking about a long term vision (at least more than 2 days of work), but it’s true that here people are mostly going to make one-shot games. (That’s not a criticism, I’m among those people).

  11. Codexus says:

    Well, I have played 40+ games so far and I haven’t seen an ad yet. Be warned, however, that I would not be kind in my ratings if I was subjected to an annoying advertisement while trying to play a LD game. There are plenty of non-obnoxious free hosting solutions available. Choose wisely.

  12. Sestren says:

    I’m glad I read this thread, but I have to admit, it’s kinda left me uncertain of what to do at this point. Since the competition, I’ve been spending a lot of my spare time working on a post-competition version of my game, and I plan to have it ready in approximately a week. I was originally contemplating using Kongregate for hosting, but I would hate to do so if the LD community (which I value far more) is in general not a fan.

    I would never consider posting the original version of my game (the one people rate during the competition) behind an ad-wall, but that still leaves me with a high degree of uncertainty about where to host the post-competition version of my game that I’m working on. Unless I’m over-thinking it and all the gripes about ad-walls really only apply to people who use Kongregate to host the version of their game that they intend to be rated during an LD competition.

    Can anyone help me sort this out or offer suggestions? I just entered my first ever LD, and I’d hate to alienate myself from the community early on with a simple mistake like this. I’m interested in increasing my exposure outside LD if possible, but if push came to shove, I’d pick LD over non-LD any day. Everybody on here seems amazing and friendly, and that, in the end, is way more important to me than trying to generate ad revenue or outside exposure.

    • KevinWorkman says:

      Although I generally hate when games (or videos) force me to watch an advertisement video beforehand, especially if it’s unmutable or unskippable (I will often just hit the back button or close out the tab when an ad video starts), this post was mostly complaining about competition games being hosted on kongregate.

      I’m all for people trying to make money off of a game- after the competition. That will also give the developer some time to ad bug fixes, feature requests, and a chance to make it a full game instead of something put together in a single weekend.

      I personally dislike kongregate because they spam the player with ads and “join now” requests, but obviously plenty of people are willing to put up with those annoyances to play free games. In the end it’s up to you. I generally only play games that are hosted on a developer’s actual site, and I tend to avoid sites like armor games or kongregate. But that’s just me.

      • Sestren says:

        Thank you very much for your response. For the moment, I’m still considering Kongregate, as I have no website of my own to host with (I’m assuming public Dropbox links will only get me so far). However, I will strongly consider looking into creating my own developer site for hosting once I have a few more games under my belt.

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