On this week’s episode of “What Do You Think?" let’s talk about something that really grinds my gears. Push alerts: they’re one of the best things to come of smartphones in general. You don’t even have to look back very far to remember the dark ages before push alerts, when you actually had to do things like load up Twitter or Facebook and actively refresh your feeds to see what’s up.
We almost take it all for granted now, I mean, of course your phone should buzz if someone tweets at you, right? Some apps even use push alerts in ways that flat-out feels like the future. Dark Sky, for instance, monitors where you are constantly and will send an alert your way if it’s going to rain. In the gaming world, push alerts are the cornerstone or asynchronous multiplayer, and it similarly feels pretty futuristic when your phone beeps after a friend of yours on the other side of the world finished their turn in some board game port that only a few years ago you’d need to be sitting in the same room to play.
Unfortunately, with the good also comes a heaping hefty helping of bad. In a world where dozens of noteworthy games are released every week, with some or most of them requiring zero financial obligation to download, developers have needed to come up with a way to remind you to keep coming back.
The success of the free to play world in particular hinges on the ever-important “daily active user" statistic which is a fancy way of saying “the number of people who launch my game worldwide inside of 24 hours." All sorts of cross-promotion shenanigans and other monetization schemes all depend on having a high DAU (a lil’ industry lingo for ya’) and the best way to do that is by making your phone beep at random points throughout the day to nag you to come back.
The worst part about these style of alerts is that they typically use iOS’s local notification service which looks just like a typical push notification, buzz and all, with the incredibly important distinction in that users do not need to grant these apps permission to send you alerts- Just by having an app installed it’s assumed that you’re opting in to local alerts on a system level. Some apps use these local alerts in great ways, but those sorts of apps are quickly fading into obscurity. Instead, even games you’ve paid for are falling into this hole of pestering you to keep playing them.
Personally, I’ve adopted an instant delete policy for any game that blasts out these spammy unprompted alerts with very rare exception. Unless I am playing a game, I have my phone on vibrate 100% of the time. Additionally, I really don’t like pulling my phone out of my pocket when I’m out with friends so I keep my push alerts pruned back to the absolute minimum. This way, when my phone buzzes, I know it’s important enough that I should try to find a time that isn’t rude to see what’s up. Being nagged to play a game I downloaded a day ago breaks this system of mine.
I’m curious where our readers stand on this. If you let these alerts run amok your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch is going to be beeping 24/7. Alternatively, if you’ve got a ton of games on your device, maybe you like being reminded that there’s some daily challenge you could complete in a game you’d otherwise forgotten about? What do you think?
NOTE: A point of clarification as it seems to being initially misunderstood in the comments. We’re referring to notifications that sneak in via the local system alerts without asking your permission, and not notifications that you can hit yes or no to on the first launch of an app.