Advertisements for big-name brands tucked within the digital billboards of video games are nothing new. In fact, in-game advertisements stretched as far back as the 1970s and became increasingly popular as the medium developed. It wasn’t long before video games based entirely around corporate mascots popped up. So it was a no-brainer for Pizza Hut to slip a few ads into the classic TMNT arcade games throughout the mean 8-bit streets of New York. With modern game consoles shooting to become all-in-one media centers, it’s common to see traditional ads on the PS4/PS5 and Xbox family home screens while shuffling through apps and software. Microsoft, however, is reportedly taking this one step further.
According to Business Insider, the corporate giant is working on a program that will allow adtech companies to place advertisements inside Free To Play games on the Xbox family of consoles. The finer details of how this would be incorporated are currently unknown. However, I wouldn’t be surprised if current speculation holds some merit. Digital billboards inside racing games and sport-centric titles shouldn’t be ruled out. It’s guaranteed that this program will affect games like Fortnite, thanks in part to their explosive popularity.
Now, before you angrily get up in arms and take to Twitter to share how much this upsets you, you should know that Microsoft strives to make these advertisements non-intrusive in the same way they are on platforms such as YouTube or Spotify.
Business Insider claims that ” (Microsoft is) taking a cautious approach to the idea and is planning to create a private marketplace where only select brands would be able to buy ad space and display ads in ways that don’t disrupt gameplay.”
This program could also be a good thing for the developers behind these free-to-play titles, as sources indicate that Microsoft isn’t interested in taking a share of the profit earned. Instead, it would be shared between the devs and ad companies and serve as a means of making more money. This could, in turn, mean a higher quality of F2P titles in the future. If we want to be optimistic, it could also mean fewer games running with the “pay to win” model or at least a decrease in how much we’d have to open our wallets to win any matches. (Ultimately, this would depend on the devs, in my opinion. It’s important to remember that publishers typically force deadlines and predatory practices such as loot boxes and microtransactions, but devs can be just as guilty of milking players.)
A quick lookup on Twitter shows that people are *definitely* not happy about this, with many fearing that this will bring their gameplay to a screeching halt. However, I don’t think we have much to worry about if we’re going by current reports. This program sounds nothing like Sony’s 2012 patented method of literally pausing your game to play an ad. If Microsoft is genuinely taking precautions as it’s been claimed, we’ll be more likely to see a McDonald’s billboard while cruising down the highway than one of those god awful Liberty Mutual commercials to break up a firefight.