Microsoft wants to run ads in free Xbox games


Microsoft is reportedly working on a way to serve ads in free Xbox games. A report reveals that the tech giant is working with ad tech companies to build an ad network for in-game inventory.

In for money. That’s why many free games are considered cash prizes with in-app purchases i.e. microtransactions for loot boxes, skins, in-game currency, and businesses rake in massive profits through to live services. For example, Epic Games’ Fortnite earned them over $9 billion in its first two years alone. That’s more money than most premium games make in their lifetime. So you can see why companies choose to create such headlines, and ads can certainly contribute to their coffers.

Microsoft wants to allow advertisers to promote their products in free Xbox games

Microsoft has already implemented an advertising system on the Xbox dashboard, via Yahoo and Anzu. The new venture, which has been reportedly in the works since around 2018-2019, will likely open the door to more advertisers. An article from Business Intern (paywall), through Kotaku, says the new system could go live by Q3 this year and the Redmond-based company may not take a cut from advertising revenue. This means that it could be up to the developers to decide whether or not to serve ads. The upcoming ad network will display digital billboards like in a car racing game.

This isn’t the first time a game company has tried this. In the 2000s, an advertising company called Massive Incorporated offered a way for brands to buy advertising space to promote in game billboards. Microsoft acquired this company to explore this idea, although it was closed in a few years. Saints Row 2, Burnout Paradise, Madden NFL all had digital ad placements, and that was before the boom in free games and smartphones became the norm.

Some studios partner with a brand to promote their in-game products, such as Death Stranding did with the Monster Energy drink, though it has since been replaced with a generic in-game brand after their expiration. Licence. Product placements like these won’t bore people as they kind of blend into the game and aren’t distracting. The report claims that Microsoft is concerned about ads that irritate people when playing games on consoles and wants to create “a private marketplace”, which only allows ads from specific brands, without disrupting gameplay. Hopefully that means no video ads, pop-ups, or interstitials (full-screen ads).

And then there is the question of privacy, Microsoft collects a lot of data with telemetry on Windows and Bing search queries. But he doesn’t want advertisers to do the same, he wants to provide a system that prevents targeted ads by protecting user data. Microsoft recently acquired two companies that could help it grow its advertising network, Alex (of AT&T), and ActivisionBlizzardwhich has an advertising network on its platform.

If Microsoft has tried something like this on PC, users can easily circumvent it by editing the hosts file or using a system-wide ad-blocking program like AdGuard for Windows. Console users do not have access to these methods. Maybe using something like PiHole or a DNS service could be a workaround for this inconvenience, but those aren’t readily available solutions for most users.

Some sites are reporting the news because Xbox games will have ads, but the keyword here is “free games”. I doubt this affects premium games for purchase and Gamepass titles, at least not offline PC games, not without pissing off the majority of gamers anyway. This could, however, lead other game companies to make strides in creating private advertising markets.


Microsoft wants to run ads in free Xbox games

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Microsoft wants to run ads in free Xbox games

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Microsoft plans to allow ads in free Xbox games. The tech giant is building a private marketplace for select brands to promote their products.




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