· 6 min read

A Game Developers’ Guide to Playable Ads

What makes a great playable ad? And what steps can you take to making them? We answer that, and more, in this article.

Playable ads have become more and more popular in the last couple of years. According to eMarketer, 28% of ad agency professionals in the US think playable ads are the most effective format out there.

So what makes a great playable? And what steps should you take when making your own? We look at that, and more, in this blog. But before we dig in, let’s go over the basics.

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Playable ads – the basics

Playable ads are exactly what they sound like – adverts you can play. Similar to free demos, they let you try out an app or game before you commit to downloading it, rather than just watching a video or looking at an image.

What makes a great playable ad

Playable ads are generally only a minute or so long. And if you’ve done any research on these already, then you’ll know they’re usually made up of three parts:

  • tutorial
  • gameplay
  • end card.

On the left, the tutorial. Middle, the gameplay. And on the right, the end card (usually the app store). 

Here’s a bit more on each of these.


This is a super-short (ideally only a couple of seconds) explanation of how to play the game. It needs to teach the user the game mechanics straightaway, so should be simple and intuitive. Any instructions should be clear and to the point.


This is where potential players will try out the game. You want to be able to persuade someone in under 20 seconds that they should download your app. So you might show them the end of an exciting level, or put them right in the thick of a fight. Think instant gratification – something that will hook them in.

End card

The end card is where you show the call to action, which is probably going to be ‘download me’.

The pros and cons

This all sounds great, right? But inevitably, playable ads aren’t perfect. Here’s a round-up of the ups and downs.

The good stuff

  • People can try before they buy: users can check out your app’s features before they commit to downloading it. And people who engage with a playable ad are more likely to open up the app later on and keep playing it, which ultimately creates more high lifetime value (LTV) players.
  • They’re fun: much more so than looking at an image of a game, or even a video that you can’t interact with. And fun means more engagement, and more downloads.
  • They can cut down on uninstall rates: according to ironSource, app uninstall rates in the first hour can be as high as 25 per cent, rising to a massive 64 per cent in the first month. But because playable ads create more LTV players early on, they reduce app uninstall rates and improve retention rates down the line. ironSource say they’ve seen retention rates for playable ads jump to 30 to 40 per cent.
  • There’s more data available: because playable ads are made up of more parts than, say, a static image, you can see exactly which bits people like, and which bits they don’t. So, for example, you’ll be able to see if they’re finding the gameplay section too easy or difficult, and you’ll know this is an area you need to look at.

The bad stuff

There’s only really one con here, but it’s a big one – playable ads are much more technically complicated than other types of advert. So they’re expensive and time-consuming to produce. And that means you won’t be able to knock one out quickly, especially considering how much you’ll need to test your ad. Colour, gameplay, text, etc. are all things you’ll want to A/B test when working on it. All of which will add a lot of time and effort to your to-do list if you don’t have the right resources.

The good news is that there are lots of tools out there that can help, specializing in exactly this. We’ve listed a bunch on our new directory, GameDev Toolbox, where you can find hundreds of services dedicated to building and launching hit games.

Our six tips for getting playable ads right

A/B test and reiterate

Because of that big time-consuming and expensive con we just talked about, you want to get this right. So start with a couple of concepts, A/B test, and then keep testing and reiterating the winning variable til you get it spot on.

To save time, you could even A/B test concepts as still images first. And then focus on gameplay once you have some results in.

Use the most exciting part of your game

This is your time to shine. And you only have a few seconds to capture people’s attention. So make sure you use the best part of your game. Because it’s much easier to convince someone to stay than to convince them to come along in the first place.

Promise them a reward

Even better, use something that promises some kind of reward if people keep on playing. People love free stuff, and it’ll make them feel valued.

On the flip side, you’ll also want to make sure that your users always have the option to close down your ad easily – you don’t want to annoy people by forcing them to play something they’re not interested in.

Remember the three S’s: short, simple, satisfying

You want to hook your player into your game quickly. So don’t make things overly complicated. One of the ways to do this is by using visual language, not text. You’ve only got a few seconds to get people interested. And that means you don’t want them to have to read loads of words explaining how to play. Rather than saying ‘Tap here’, show a hand swiping or tapping, for example.

Whatever you do, don’t lie

Don’t show flash gameplay that isn’t actually in your game. Although it might increase your downloads in the short term, you’ll lose those precious LTV users over time.

Also, don’t use ‘clickbait’. A lot of playable ads aren’t actually playable – meaning they entice the player to try for themselves, and when the player taps, it takes them straight to the download page. It might increase downloads, but it’s still annoying.

Get started today

As mentioned above, there are many resources out there that can help you create awesome games. We took the time to collect them all into one directory. All of these services are focused on game development.

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