It may surprise our young readers, but there was a time when you bought a game, and that was it. You didn’t need to connect to any paid online services to update it on day one, and no one was trying to sell you skins or in-game currency. But today there are money to be made, and you might not like Microsoft’s latest idea along these lines. According to a new report, Microsoft is considering putting ads in free Xbox games.
the insider report is light on the details, and what they have is unexpected. Microsoft apparently isn’t looking to take a cut of ad sales. Instead, it will create a closed marketplace where select partners can embed ads. It is hoped that by passing all the profits on to developers and advertisers, they will in turn devote more resources to development on Microsoft’s platform.
Some games may offer the option to insert a billboard, but this has already been done. Microsoft itself experimented with ads in games like Madden and Burnout Paradise over a decade ago, but gamers haven’t responded positively. It’s possible that this new attempt at in-game advertising will be more subtle, like sponsored items or skins. Or it could just be clunky video ads on your face instead of loading screens.
Video games are best when they’re immersive – features like ads and microtransactions interrupt the experience and remind you that you’re not, in fact, a knight in search of gold. For this reason, many free games can feel more like a job than a game, as you work and work to avoid paying money for fast progress. Putting ads in a free game can generate revenue even for gamers who prefer to slave to a hot controller to avoid losing money. Is this a good idea, however? Microsoft’s concerns about player alienation are probably well-founded.
It can always be worse. The report only cites free games as the target of the advertisements. With AAA titles regularly costing $70, many with microtransactions, adding ads might be too much for even committed Xbox fans. Ads could start appearing as early as the third quarter of this year.