Microsoft reportedly bringing ads to free-to-play titles with in-game billboards

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According to reports, Microsoft might be working on a program that allows for advertisements within free-to-play Xbox games, though they won’t disrupt gameplay or be obtrusive. While we’ve seen in-game advertisements in the past, Microsoft’s reported solution will be in the form of in-game billboards of racing titles, or as video games on a TV in the game’s world. However, as Microsoft won’t take a share of the revenue, reportedly, could the idea of additional money from ads entice more Xbox games to become free to play? Let’s take a closer look.

In-game ads might not be that bad…if done right

Let’s face it, we all hate ads. But, at the same time, ads allow brands and companies to provide free content, and games are no exception. Mobile games have long been riddled with full-page ads, interactive ads, or banners that take up half the screen. And, rightfully so, people generally dislike that type of advertising. What Microsoft is proposing here, according to The Verge and Insider, isn’t that, however.

Essentially, Microsoft is wanting to take in-game elements, say, a billboard in a racing title, and put a live advertisement on it, so it wouldn’t be any different than driving down the street. And the billboard is likely already there anyway, so why not leverage it?

Microsoft is concerned that certain ad types could “irritate” gamers with a service like this, so they’re also looking to build out a “private marketplace” to allow only a select choice of brands into the advertising program. This would keep ads curated and ensure that nothing scammy or spammy made its way in. These ads also won’t be targeted using data collected from Bing and other services according to Insider as well, meaning they’ll be more generic, which could help them blend into the game even more.

This service will reportedly start appearing on Xbox as soon as the third quart of this year, though the timeline isn’t 100% nailed down yet.

9to5Toys’ Take

Honestly, I’m not upset at the fact that ads could be coming to Xbox games in the near future. Just the opposite, actually. So long as the function stays locked to free-to-play only, I’m perfectly fine with it. From how it’s described, ads will look natural and not out of place, and I’m totally fine with that as well.

I do, however, wonder if Microsoft will allow for a way to remove ads? Will they let Game Pass Ultimate members play ad-free? Make IAPs to remove ads? Right now, we don’t know, but it would make sense to have some form of that service for paying customers.

In the end, having more free-to-play games on Xbox is only going to be better for the platform. And, if regulated properly, these ads could be the least obtrusive form of advertising that we’ve seen yet.

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