Microsoft is reportedly looking into letting advertisers insert ads into free-to-play Xbox games. This program is reportedly going to launch by the third quarter of this year.
According to Business Insider, these ads could show up as rendered billboards in a racing game. However, it wasn’t able to be confirmed whether these advertisements would extend to avatar skins or video ads.
Interestingly, Microsoft reportedly doesn’t intend to take a cut of the advertising revenue and is more interested in building out Xbox’s advertising network, as it is said to be trying to identify which companies and ad agencies to work with. Instead, the revenue from the ads will be shared between the game developer and the respective ad company.
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Microsoft reportedly wants to provide game developers the opportunity to make more money from their free-to-play games. It has been trying to build out Xbox’s in-game ad network since between 2018-2019, but plans accelerated in 2020 due to the release of the Xbox Series S|X.
Microsoft reportedly also has some concerns about the potential backlash this initiative from consumers could look like, as console players aren’t accustomed to seeing in-game ads, unlike mobile players. For example, EA placed in-game ads for UFC 4 but removed them after fan outcry.
The company is also worried about securing its customers’ data and keeping it out of other companies’ hands. As such, Microsoft reportedly has no immediate plans to let advertisers use its data collected from Bing and other sites and software in order to target Xbox players.
A Microsoft spokesperson said in a comment to Business Insider, “We are always looking for ways to improve the experience for players and developers but we don’t have anything further to share.” Advertisements are currently limited to places such as the Xbox dashboard.
In-game ads aren’t necessarily a new concept. Former president Barack Obama hosted in-game ads on EA games such as Burnout Paradise, Madden 09, and Skate when he was campaigning to become the next Commander-in-Chief back in 2008.
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George Yang is a freelance writer for IGN. You can follow him on Twitter @yinyangfooey