There is now a free version of Threes! released for iOS and Android devices. But the designer of the game, Asher Vollmer, wanted to be careful about how the ads were delivered. They had spent a year perfecting the game's mechanics, only to have the game cloned and a free-to-play version become just as, if not more, popular than the original.
"I was pretty set on banner ads for a long time. Thanks to analytics, I could see that people would have the app open for twenty minutes per session on average," Vollmer told Polygon.
"It seemed pretty straightforward to slap a banner ad at the bottom of the game. This all changed, however, when I opened Drop7 for the first time in a year and found out that Zynga had slapped some atrocious 'tap the duck to win big!'-style banner ads at the bottom of the game. I found these so gross and offensive. The first thing I did was swear off banner ads forever."
He then disabled the cell service on his device so the ads couldn't load. "I felt proud for figuring out how to circumvent the system and basically steal from Zynga. I never want my players to feel that way. I want the players to actively feel good about participating in ad culture," he explained.
The Threes! team even released an animation that shows how the ads are shown to the player. You can check it out below. You have a set amount of plays, and can earn more by watching ads. You choose when to view the ads, or not to. If you don't want to mess with ads at all you can buy the paid version. There are no in-app purchases, and no pop-ups asking you to rate the game.
"A year ago I thought that cheapening the game experience for the free version was okay," Vollmer said.
"My stance was a little vitriolic... it was along the lines of 'oh if you actually want a good experience then you should pay for it!' But I've started actually talking to people who play free games and I respect the fact that they have a sensitive relationship to money. I still want to give them a chance to play the game and I still want them to have a good experience and I still want to be supported as a developer."
Figuring out how to do this, and do this well, wasn't easy. "It took us a year to figure out how to accomplish all of these goals at once," Vollmer told Polygon. The free version of Threes! is out now.