Jakub Kukuryk: “Playable ads are perfect for prototyping new features or even whole new games”

Written by Tappx
Created Jul 21, 2023 - Updated Jul 27, 2023

Another one of our interesting talks with great professionals in the industry is here. This time, we talk to Jakub Kukuryk, who now works as Playable Ads Developer at Popcore, and is a great expert on this innovative advertising format. He has strong experience in graphic design, animations, and programming, so we can’t imagine anyone better to ask about the keys to a successful monetization strategy.

Hi, Jakub, how are you doing? Busy days at work, maybe?

Thank you, I’m doing fine. Honestly, I always start the day thinking my dreams have come true. I wanted to enter the game industry with my art and coding skills, and I’m happy that I discovered playable ads. I have a huge experience in programming in Javascript, which is crucial in playable ads.
Busy days? Yes, luckily, they are. We constantly have new ideas and can’t wait to implement them all.

So, let’s save time and get straight to the point. Why are playable ads the revolution in mobile game advertising?

It is revolutionizing in many aspects. Firstly it gives players the real feeling of the game. It is creating the “Try before you buy” experience. Of course, we can make playable ads that do not match the game, but I think the crucial point is to recreate this thing that makes the game entertaining. If, by the ad, we will create a desire to play more, and the game fulfills this desire, we will bring the high-value player to the game, and the player will be happy that he plays on this playable ad.

Secondly, playable ads can send analytics data on some platforms. By collecting this data, we can precisely check how players play on our ads, gather this data, and create better playable in the future.

As a last point, I’ll share the idea of prototyping new features or even whole new games. Creating a playable ad with a new feature and testing it is much easier than putting new features in the game. Creating a playable ad as a prototype of a game we plan to build can be a good solution to check if this game can succeed before we start making it.

Playable ads give players the real feeling of the game.

Are we talking about benefits at all stages of the funnel? That is, user acquisition, engagement, retention, and maybe more campaign goals.

If we create a winning playable ad, it will benefit all stages. The core advantage of video ads is engagement. When a player can interact with the ad, it will create good or bad bonds with the title.
If we recreate the game features in the playable ad, we can encourage players or disappoint players when they see that the game works differently. So it could be a double-edged sword.
Players whose install games because of the playable ads will have better retention because they enjoy the experience in the game. But on the other hand, playable ads are not a magic recipe for winning all the campaigns.
The biggest threshold on playable ads is to encourage players to try it. When we checked how many players didn’t even start to play on a playable ad, we had to think – why is it happening like that? The player may be afraid to touch the screen, they could just not be interested, or he already plays on this playable ad. Luckily playable ads have become increasingly popular, and players are aware of this type of ad and more often interact with them.

Playable ads have clear benefits, but are not easy to design or implement, are they? Could you tell us some technics and guidelines?

Playable ads could divide into two categories:

  1. One is to create this ad with a chunk of small video files. It is something between video and playable. When we develop a framework or buy existing tools on the market, we can add this tool to motion designers who don’t have to know any programing language. Creating this kind of playable can be almost the same as creating a video ad. We can use video playable ads in games with a linear way of playing. If we want to give more options, we can’t record every possible move simply because we are limited mostly to five megabytes in total. On this video/playable ads, it is tough to remove experience beyond interaction with the play/pause button.
  2. The second option is to create a small html5 game. The process is much longer. When I began the first playable for a title, I had to consider future iterations. I had to separate core game mechanics that wouldn’t change and make an easy way of changing game settings, switching assets, or changing UI elements.

Creating the first version of a playable can take a week to even a month, depending on the game’s complexity. We have developed many reusable components and solutions and reused them in new games, speeding up the process. But we can approach a technical problem that could be easy to solve in popular game engines but hard in WebGL or Javascript. We often had to cut corners to be able to render something on WebGL or keep the performance in Javascript.

When we design playable in a good way, then making more iterations will be very simple. If we want to change assets or tweak some game options, it is mostly like changing a few variables.
Building production-ready code as an analogous process to render video will take a few seconds.
So long story short, the hardest part is creating the first playable ad, and implementing other versions will be much easier.


A zero waste app monetization strategy to boost your profit

There may be some who think that creativity and playable ads require a lot of time and resources to perform well. What would you say to them? Is it worth it?

As mentioned before, the upfront cost of creating playable ads can be noticeable, but the benefits are huge. Finding well-performing playable ads is the same hard as finding well-performing video ads. If we efficiently organize the code of playable ads, we can create many variations for tests. With that, creating many playable ads without using many resources is possible.

Properly analyzing the data is the key to creating well-performing ads, not only playable ads. Playable ads return much more data, and we can learn about players’ preferences much quicker. We also have to remember that platforms have their algorithms, and we need to give time for them to learn how to use our creativity efficiently.

Is it important to think about playable ads from the beginning? I mean, when you start designing the game to ensure consistency. 

The most important, in my opinion, is to create an outstanding, successful game, and developers shouldn’t restrict themselves by thinking about how playable ads developers will recreate it. 

When I recreate the game as a base of the playable ads, I do not use any of the code from the real game. The playable ad will always be a variation of the game. We have to think about the best features and show them to players, and we have to think about how to simplify the game by removing not crucial elements. The role of ad creators is to recreate the style, the mood, and everything important to create consistency with the game. Creating ads has different rules than making games. Viewers know it very well. They understand that some elements probably wouldn’t be in the real game, and others likely will. Our goal is to convince them that they will enjoy it.

How important are working cross-departmental synergies between product, performance, tech, data, and marketing for gaming success?

We must work as a big team and support each other to achieve a bigger goal: creating successful games. If the company has a campaign idea, it should be broadly known to match all the campaigns, from social media posts to ads. Mostly if we find a good-performing ad idea, we will copy it to playable ads, and if something works in playable ads, we test it in video ads.

If we find good-performing ads with elements not existing in the real game, we can consider updating the real game with this element or feature. If game developers update the game with a new feature, creating ads to show this new feature is a good idea. We must closely contact the User Acquisition team to create winning campaigns. If they need new variations of ads because they see potential, we should change priorities to support them.

By the way, what is a successful game for you, Jakub?

I’m an idealist, so for me, a successful game is a game that will touch our souls. If you remember the game you played many years ago, and you still have positive emotions, and you think, “I’ll play it again,” then it is a successful game, in my opinion. 

Before I became a playable ads developer, I had yet to learn how the industry works. It sounds naive right now, but it must be at the top of the game is good. Right now, I know that a bad game with great advertisements could be “successful,” and an amazing game will be lost without a budget for ads. Teams who create a good game will succeed: they will be proud of their product and get a salary.

A successful game is one that which touches our souls and is remembered many years later with positive emotions.

What about diversity, inclusion, and different sociodemographic backgrounds? Do you think video games play an important role in developing social values?

Games have become a part of our culture, almost everyone carries a device on which it is possible to play games, and it is a great way to connect people. People from different cultures of different ages could play the same game without boundaries.

Games have become a part of our culture, almost everyone carries a device on which it is possible to play games, and it is a great way to connect people. People from different cultures of different ages could play the same game without boundaries.

Some play to kill time and relax after a hard day, but many players live with games. It is not unusual to play with somebody living on a different edge of the world now; every interaction with others opens us to different cultures.

When I heard questions like that, my first thought went to the youngest players, and games have many dangers for them. It could be negative in social development. Here it is important to give a healthy perspective to children, to teach them that the game is not the whole world.

Games could be valuable for sharing culture. I’m from Poland, and when the game The Witcher was published, suddenly, almost everyone heard about our country and its mythology. The books on which the game was based were translated into many languages, and it was also a point that put games into an equal position in our culture.

With Artificial Intelligence, cookieless, privacy regulations, and all that going on, are we in a too challenging time or a moment of great opportunity for the gaming industry? What do you think?

I think it is both. AI is in everybody’s mouth right now, we constantly hear that so many people would lose their jobs, but it could bring many new game possibilities.
It is like being afraid that mathematicians will lose their jobs because calculators were invented.
I like to read about developing old games when computers have only a few megabytes of memory and how developers cheat to find solutions to show their visions. The obstacles are always present in game development, and we will find a way in the industry. Who knows where it will take us?

Thanks, Jakub, for all the insights. It makes us want to start doing business with you and test the advantages of playable ads. 😉

Thank you for the conversation. It was a pleasure to share some knowledge about playable ads with you. I hope that playable ads will evolve into an amazing type of advertising, and I wish you the best campaigns using them. Wishing you the best, and goodbye!

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