Advertisements in games are far from a new concept. Many mobile games exclusively rely on full commercials to generate revenue, while others inject them with the opportunity to skip them for money. Console games have generally been able to avoid commercials, but have seen other in-game advertisements, such as logos and product placement. However, things might be changing, as Microsoft and Sony are looking to allow game companies to integrate advertisements into games on their platforms.
Ads on Xbox
A report from Insider suggests that Microsoft has been working on an in-game advertising platform for developers. The information came from 2 anonymous sources involved in the discussions taking place within the company.
The discussions suggest that the plan is to offer developers an advertising platform that will come from a private marketplace, rather than the way mobile games tend to work, where the ads are for random stuff from other games to odd financial products. This would give Microsoft control over the types of ads that are available on the platform, ensuring that kids don't get ED pill ads.
It would likely work similarly to the way ads on the Xbox Dashboard already work or could be an API into the same advertising database. That would make the advertising experience more consistent between the Dashboard and in-game. If the service launches, it is expected to go live in Q3 of 2022.
Ads on PlayStation
Not to be outdone, it appears that Sony is considering something very similar for PlayStation. Also coming from a report from Insider, Sony is currently working with adtech partners to build out an in-game advertising platform for developers.
The company is looking to sell ads in-game through its own private marketplace, which would give the PlayStation brand the same control that Xbox is looking to have over the in-game ad experience. Sony hopes to make the ads less obtrusive than they are in mobile games, however - essentially controlling when and where these ads can appear. The current plan, according to the sources, is to lease virtual real estate within the game, such as on billboards.
The company has not finalized it plans, including how they intend to profit off of the process. They have considered taking a cut of revenue, but are also considering selling access to user activity data and other metrics.
A brief history of in-game ads
Mobile games are the most common users of in-game advertisements. However, gamers don't always enjoy the experience. In fact, it is one of the reasons why services like Apple Arcade, Google Play Pass, and Netflix Games are such a good deal for mobile gamers - they remove all of that headache.
But, while consoles have generally avoided these same types of ads, it's not been exclusive. EA, for example, included a full commercial in UFC 4 in 2020. Gamers responded incredibly negatively, and the company ended up taking the commercial out and making a public apology on Reddit. So, the general feelings about commercials in games is not a positive one, so it will be interesting to see how gamers respond to this new feature if and when it launches on both platforms in 2022.