Imagine playing a match of Slayer in a future Halo title and having to drive your Warthog past giant billboards for Coca Cola or McDonalds. That nightmare may actually become a reality, suggests a new report from Business Insider, which has learned from multiple sources about how Microsoft has been developing a program over the last few years that would make it easier for developers to sell ad space in their games, allowing brands to place and display digital billboards and other sorts of advertisements in free-to-play Xbox games. Sources suggest that this capability may go live as early as Q3, but Microsoft is reportedly (and rightfully) “moving cautiously” with the project, as there probably isn’t a single Xbox owner on the planet who thinks their gaming experience might be heightened with the addition of ads.
Microsoft is building an ad program that will let brands advertise in Xbox games (Business Insider)
Microsoft wants to let advertisers place ads inside free-to-play Xbox games, and it is currently identifying adtech companies who can create the in-game inventory and work with ad agencies to place the ads, said two people who are involved in the talks.
Those sources said those ads would show up as, for instance, digitally rendered billboards in a car racing game. Insider was unable to learn if Xbox will also offer other types of in-game ad units, like avatar skins or video ads that play in gaming lobbies. Insider was also unable to determine if Microsoft has pitched the Xbox offering to advertisers yet.
The two sources said the tech giant did not seem intent on taking a cut of ad revenue, and that it seemed more interested in building out the Xbox ad network. Ad revenue will be shared by the game developer and the adtech company that places the ad, those sources believe.
One of the sources speculated Microsoft isn’t currently interested in collecting a cut of ad revenue because it wants to provide more money-making opportunities to developers who make free-to-play games.