Nobody likes seeing, much less watching, ads; but if watching a short, 15-30 seconds advertising clip grants them some precious Video Game booty, many people are probably more than happy to click that "Play" button. Filling out surveys have the same effect.
Let's face it — producing a game can be an expensive enterprise: you need capital to buy a good game engine and development software, and hire a team of programmers, script writers, concept artists, animators, etc. to make sure that the final product runs smoothly. Unfortunately, not a lot of people are willing to pay money for the game you've spent so much to make, especially if you're a new indie developer with an unknown track record of quality.
So what to do?
One way to monetize a game while attracting a broader player base is to release the product as free-to-play but promote in-app purchases to buy subscriptions to access premium content, obtain better equipment and/or characters, and other add-ons.
However, this doesn't guarantee that the players will spend money on your product, and ramping up the game's difficulty so that it's impossible to make significant progress without purchasing in-game items are more likely to drive away customers, and probably prompt them to rate the game badly for being "pay to win".
Enter the Ad Reward, in which players can watch ads or fill out surveys in lieu of real money to buy in-game currency, refill/speed up the Freemium Timer or obtain other items that can normally only be purchased with real money. This allows the game developers to earn revenue while still retaining their player base.
Of course, the ads aren't a direct substitute to cash-based transactions. These games usually put a limit on the number of ads the players can watch (e.g. once every hour) or surveys to fill out, and not all of the available premium content can be obtained by watching ads or filling out surveys—meaning that paying customers still have some advantages over the "strictly-free" players.
Note that this trope only applies when watching the ads or filling out surveys actually offers some in-game benefits, and that the ads are optional to watch or surveys to fill out at the player's digression. Games that simply display ads are not examples—although they might fit under Freemium instead, if they offer an ad-free subscription.
- I Became a Dog: Hints can be unlocked and skills can be charged for watching an ad or buying Premium mode.
- South Park: Phone Destroyer: Watching an ad after a match grants you either one extra destroyed phone if you won the match or gives you access to lockers if you lost the match. You can also watch an ad to open one extra locker reward (but only if you didn't already buy an extra locker with cash) and to get an extra hourly card pack.
- Crash: On the Run!: Watching an ad lets you restart a run, and viewing an ad form the sore once a day gives you gems.
- Animal Restaurant: You have the option of watching ads to summon more customers, increase claimed earnings, make more wishes at the wishing well, get more bait, get more courtyard gathers per day, or refresh shops, among other things.
- Antimatter Dimensions: The mobile port has an option in the shop to watch an ad to give an increasingly beneficial effect for 5 hours (goes from multiplying Antimatter Dimensions to multiplying IP gain to multiplying EP gain on Eternity), with further ads extending the effect's length.
- Cell to Singularity: Evolution Never Ends: The mobile port has the option to watch an ad to add four hours to doubled Entropy and Idea gain.
- Disco Zoo: When you run out of tries on a rescue mission, you can watch an ad for five more instead of paying a Discobux.
- Exponential Idle: You can watch an ad to temporarily increase the value of dt by 50% or buy the Permanent Ad Reward and all achievements related to them.
- Food Fighter Clicker: You can watch ads to get gems, or earn double rewards from a challenge. Watching enough of them lets you claim a gem reward in the achievements tab.
- Gift Clicker: The shop has an option to watch an ad to double gifts earned for 30 seconds.
- A Girl Adrift: After defeating a Legendary fish, you can watch an ad to double your loot.
- Idle Downloader lets you multiply offline earnings by 3, multiply download rate by 2, or reset Server Farm points by watching an ad.
- Idle Slayer doubles offline progress when you watch an ad. It may not always work, though.
- Make More has several temporary perks unlocked by watching an ad, as well as the ability to claim bucks and double offline profits.
- My Cafe provides a TV which can play up to 10 ads per day to earn 1 diamond each. This is actually lampshaded by one of the NPCs, who complains that the TV in your café only plays ads, and doesn't offer much in the way of inspiration.
- Realm Grinder: The Scrying function can give a boost to production in exchange for watching an ad. As ads are disabled on Steam, the entire feature is hidden away on that version.
- Tiny Shop: Cute Fantasy Craft, Design & Trade RPG allows players to run ads to boost their shop's operations (such as doubling the gold earnings or speeding up the transactions) or to reduce the cooldown time for researching item recipes, upgrading a building or sending out Adventurers on quests to gather raw materials. Players can also buy "ad tickets" to gain the benefits of those boosts without actually having to watch the ads.
- Tsuki Adventure: You can watch ads at certain points to get more carrots (the in-game currency). It is also the only way to get bags of manure, which can be used to get more carrots and are required for a certain diary entry.
- Zombidle lets you watch an ad (in-universe, selling your soul to the succubus) every few minutes to boost productivity somehow: gaining extra skulls per house destroyed, increasing damage, reducing crafting times, etc. Crafting times for items and Hell buildings can be reduced every four hours, with upgrades to the succubus increasing the amount of time reduced (up to eight). Ads can be skipped in exchange for bloodstones instead.
- Animal Rotary allows the player to play ads after finishing each round to gain an additional 10 gems, which can then be used to unlock additional game modes.
- Pixel Art has drawings or packs that the player can unlock by watching an ad.
- Outplay's Mystery Match often gives free boosts for the current level, such as three additional moves or adjacent beam and pulse gems, in exchange for playing an ad.
- Hill Climb Racing 2 lets you unlock a specific chest, double coins earned for the duration of the run, instantly open three-hour chests, and buy low-level upgrades for free if you watch an ad.
- Eternal Senia: Hydrangea After The Rain: Watching ads rewards Amethysts, which are otherwise won in a daily tournament, and are used to buy revivals, companion cards and battle points, which are themselves used to buy non-story boss battles.
- RuneScape: Players have the option to earn Treasure Hunter keys for Loot Boxes or RuneCoins for Microtransactions by engaging in some variety of advertsing. Watching video ads tends to reward the least of either currency, while filling out surveys or subscribing to advertising mailing lists rewards more.
- Gacha Life allows players to watch ads in order to earn a random number of gems, which are used in the gacha portion to earn gifts to give other characters.
- Harvest Town: Ads can be used for a wide variety of purposes, such as: gaining random boosts, collecting Daily Login rewards that you missed out, spinning the lucky wheel, increasing your Relationship Values with NPCs (inviting them for a "movie date" in-universe), and speeding up the cooldown timers on workshop production, goods stall, and order station. There's actually several achievements that the players unlock after watching ads over a certain number of consecutive days.
- My Little Pony (Gameloft):
- Watching an ad can grant one or two extra Gems or allow you to access certain minigame upgrades without paying.
- If you die in the cart minigame, you can watch an ad instead of paying Gems in order to continue.
- The Sims Freeplay has a billboard on the town map where you can watch ads in exchange for for Lifestyle Points and other ingame currencies.
- Dictators: No Peace grants you one use of a nuke on any country you like to weaken its defenses by 150 upon watching an ad.
- Cooking Diary: At the end of each round, the player has the option to play an ad to double the day's earnings. They can also watch ad to get a diamond and to speed up delivery.
- Diner Dash Adventures would occasionally offer the player to watch ads in exchange for extra food supplies or a diamond. After playing Food Truck rounds, the player could also watch ads to extend the round for 30 seconds.
- Infinitode 2 lets you finish decrypting common chests instantly or gain resources by watching an ad.
- Archero has ad-based powerups all over the place, from the Daily Supply Pack (which is in turn required for getting more seasonal rewards), to mid-chapter "masters" who will boost your Attack or HP stats, to revival on death. There are still further rewards that require real currency, though.
- Club Penguin Rewritten was a poor example of this. The game was already completely free from the start but in 2021 the devs added the "Rockhopper's Daily Treasure" which allowed players to obtain bonus items every day, as long as they watch an ad. This wasn't received well by longtime players, who sought to find workarounds to prevent seeing ads in the first place. The game had adblock detection, making that useless. A coding workaround was also patched out after someone posted the workaround method right in front of the devs on a Twitter post. The result was a fangame monetizing themselves every day by players, so you can guess what happened next when they were finally caught by Disney. This is seen as a cautionary tale not to taint the original product by going down this path, deconstructing this trope.
- Hugo Troll Race: You can watch an ad to revive instantly (works up to three times) or gain double stars from the run.
- Paladins: Ads can be watched to earn Skin boosters and Team XP boosters, as well as Bounty Coins and Gold.
- Polandball: Not Safe for World: You can watch up to three advertisements per day to gain 60G. If you can't watch one because of a poor internet connection or other circumstances, the game just gives 30G.
- Rank Insignia: Ads can be watched once a certain amount of time to claim double coins from a box, double coins earned for 10 minutes, claim a certain number of diamonds, instantly start a mobilisation drive, or restart a stage once. Watching 10 of them will grant diamonds.
- Tofu Girl: Tofu-Ya's shop has an option to watch an ad and earn most coins required for the next costume. You can also watch an ad when you get hit to restore once per game. If you bought anything for real money, you can just claim the coins or revive. Watching enough of them or buying anything for real money also unlocks costumes.