Insider reports that Microsoft wants to make its free-to-play games more ad-friendly in order to help finance the present microtransaction revenue model and make Xbox an even more enticing offer for potential game developers.
Two persons “engaged in the negotiations” are cited in the paper as saying that Microsoft is working on a “in-game advertising campaign” that will go live this summer.
According to Insider, Microsoft is “worried” that an ad presence in-game “may upset customers” since it is aware of the terrible image that in-game commercials have. The ad strategy would only target free-to-play games. As a result, only a few businesses will be given the green light, and only ads that “doesn’t disturb the gaming experience” would be allowed in games.
The site claims that Microsoft “had no imminent plans to allow marketers to utilise data to target individuals on Xbox.” This suggests that the ads will be as generic and non-targeted as what you could see on a billboard while strolling downtown.
The money will reportedly be divided between the game producers and the adtech business that places the ads in games, so it’s unclear whether this is an income generator for Microsoft as well. If Microsoft is looking at the larger picture, they’re aiming to entice more free developers to Xbox in order to tap into this additional income source.
I don’t have an issue with this method if it’s done in a controlled way. To be fair, it should only apply to free-to-play games, and not to any premium or Xbox Game Pass titles (because you’ve already paid the monthly fee there).
Restrained is the essential term here, since there is nothing worse than anything that shatters the illusion of a game’s universe. Using a real-world product as an advertising board in a current-day racing game? Fine. In the Rome of Emperor Nero, would you rather see Nike or Coca-Cola advertised? Isn’t that bad?
You never know what may come out of it. Mobile app shops have been plagued by some rather obnoxious “free” games that continuously ask you to purchase stuff or, worse, provide those who pay an unfair edge over those who don’t. The only negative of in-game advertising is that it eliminates the need for producers to rely on their user base for money.
Of course, there are a lot of “ifs” in there. Free-to-play games may become more tempting as a result of this marketing campaign, which is timely given that the cost of living continues to rise.