Don’t panic: Google’s hypercasual ad crackdown isn’t as bad as it sounds


Google’s new guidelines around intrusive ads are not the ATT-style disaster some have predicted, it seems.

On Friday we reported that Google’s new ad guidelines, effective September 30, will outlaw several ad formats when used in unexpected and intrusive ways, potentially impacting hypercasual games and advertisers.

Prominent analyst and investor Eric Seufert summed up a lot of the reaction to the news when he said on Twitter that the restrictions are “absolutely going to kill the hypercasual gaming category”. 

But other folks we’ve spoken to about Google’s policies are more optimistic about how this one’s going to play out. 

Felix Braberg, an ad monetisation consultant, suggests that Google is not just trying to improve the user experience, but is also using these new guidelines to drive adoption of one of its new ad units.

Google reps, in the weeks leading up to this announcement, have been pushing hard on their new ad unit the ‘rewarded interstitial’,” Braberg tells us. “I can’t help but think that these changes in their policy is to drive devs to use this new ad unit as it’s not covered in the new guideline change and its usage has so far been somewhat lacklustre.” 

“My takeaway from this is that in the short to medium term there will be a lot of devs with rejected builds as Google subjectively decides what’s annoying,” Braberg continues. “But after a while game developers will adjust to the new norm. We’ll also see a lot more devs starting to use the rewarded interstitial.”

User acquisition consultant Matej Lancaric agreed that while the market will have to adapt, it’s not the disaster some have predicted.

“As long as you implement interstitials that show up between sessions or in parts of the game that don’t interrupt the current gameplay you should be fine,” he told us. “What exactly is ‘unexpected’ remains to be described, because it could be just everything. All interstitials have the ability to close after five seconds. The problem is ads shown during levels and app opens, which I rarely see.”

“There will be some kind of transition period with a lot of Google Play builds rejected and you will need to find new placements for interstitials. But nothing huge is happening. Hypercasuals will survive, as they usually do! They are supposed to be dead already!”

Tenjin marketing director Roman Garbar was also pretty bullish on how the market will respond to the proposed changes. 

“Google Play’s new guidelines will undoubtedly trigger the latest wave of doomsaying from ‘experts’ that don’t actually work closely with hypercasual publishers,” he told us. “I’d argue that the drop in eCPMs due to ATT opt-outs in 2021 had a greater impact on hypercasual developers. And, while some may argue that this latest hit represents the fourth horseman of the apocalypse, I disagree.”

“Rewarded video is unaffected by the new guidelines. It is rewarded video – not interstitials – that’s the most lucrative ad format, as well as being far more user-friendly. Cramming in a load of interstitials was bad practice long before now. There’s a direct correlation between the number of ads you show and user retention rates. Quality products do not swamp users with ads, they make ads a natural part of the overall experience.”

“The times when hypercasual games’ monetisation strategies were based entirely on ads are long gone,” Garbar continues. “This new wave of games uses IAPs and subscriptions in addition to ad monetisation. And let’s not forget that Google is also in the ad monetisation business with Admob, so introducing overly harsh guidelines on ad monetisation would be shooting themselves in the foot.”

“Hypercasual games – particularly those relying on poor advertising practices – will take another hit,” added Garbar. “But, for hypercasual developers that use ads effectively as part of a diverse monetisation strategy, it’s far from a knockout blow.”

GameBake CEO and co-founder Michael Hudson was less positive about the guidelines, however. He told us: “These are harsh rules that go a step too far and make it much harder for hypercasual games to be profitable on Google Play.”

“It is already a very tough and competitive market and this is really killing the opportunity for newcomers to come and disrupt things,” he continued. “The bigger and more established players will be the ones to dominate, as they have the networks to be able to scale traffic to games and climb the charts via their own network, therefore reducing their costs against competitors.”

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