Microsoft is reportedly working on a program that will allow brands to show ads in free-to-play Xbox games, according to a report by Insider† Sources familiar with the situation said Insider that the ads would not disrupt gameplay and could appear on a billboard in a racing game, for example.
It’s not immediately clear how Microsoft plans to implement ads otherwise, such as making them appear as avatar skins or as videos in game lobbies. but if Insider notes, Microsoft is reportedly concerned that the ads could “annoy” players, and plans to build a “private marketplace” to allow only select brands into the program.
Sources also told Insider that Microsoft has no intention of cutting back on advertising revenue, instead allowing the game developer and advertising company to share the money. Microsoft may simply want to use this as a way to attract more free-to-play game developers to the platform, as it would create a new revenue stream outside of microtransactions.
According to Insider, Microsoft will not use the information it collects from Bing and other services for targeted advertising on Xbox. The outlet also doesn’t know if Microsoft has brought the idea to advertisers yet, but the sources claim ads will start appearing on Xbox as early as Q3 this year.
“We’re always looking for ways to improve the experience for players and developers, but we have nothing else to share,” a Microsoft spokesperson said in a statement. Insider† The edge contacted Microsoft with a request for comment, but the company said it had no additional information to share beyond its statement to Insider†
In-game ads on console games aren’t a new concept — game companies experimented quite a bit with them in paid games in the mid to late 2000s. Around this time, EA Games partnered with the (now-defunct) Microsoft-owned ad company Massive, allowing companies to place ads in Madden NFL† Skate† NHLand NASCAR franchises, but also in Burnout Paradise† If you played one of these games at the time, you may remember seeing digital Obama ads plastered in digital sports arenas or on billboards. Saints Row 2 even had real-life ads on billboards, like this one for Netflix.
In-game ads for real products may have been a novelty at the time, but with some next-gen games costing nearly $70, players expect an ad-free experience — this is likely why Microsoft is reportedly rolling out the free-to-play only initiative. games. More recently, EA has been trying to put in a skippable full-screen commercial UFC 4 in 2020. Fans who paid for the $60 game were clearly not happy, which led to EA pulling the ad.
Update Apr 16 1:45 PM ET: Updated to add that Microsoft had no additional information to share The edge†