Microsoft makes new Xbox advertising technology for games

A screenshot of Fortnite characters looking at a blank billboard with an Xbox logo.

picture: Xbox/Epic/Kotaku

Raise your hand if you’re excited to see more ads in your favorite video games? I don’t see hands. Well, bad news: a new report claims that Microsoft is creating an advertising program to allow “select brands” to buy ads, which will then appear in free-to-play Xbox games. And while the report states that Microsoft and Xbox are careful not to “irritate” gamers or disrupt games, most people are unlikely to enjoy seeing in-game ads.

Business Insider reports Microsoft wants to work with adtech companies to create a system that will allow brands and advertisers to buy and place ads in free-to-play Xbox games, according to two people spoken to insider and who are reportedly involved in the day-to-day planning and negotiation of the programme.

According to these sources, the ads could appear as digitally rendered billboards in a racing game or open-world adventure. However, it is currently unknown what other form these free-to-play ads might take or whether they will contain video or audio. Business Insider also could not confirm whether Microsoft and Xbox have started promoting advertisers and brands to the new ad system. Regardless, it’s expected to launch around the third quarter of this year.

A Microsoft spokesman said kotaku that while the company is “always looking for ways to improve the experience for players and developers,” it had nothing further to say about the reported advertising system.

Continue reading: The 24 best games in Xbox Game Pass

As stressed by Business Insider, Microsoft already sells some limited advertising space on its consoles through dashboard ads and certain in-game advertising offers through third parties. However, this new program is Microsoft and Xbox’s attempt to expand to more brands looking for ways to appeal to growing gaming audiences, many of whom are younger, don’t watch cable and are increasingly difficult to reach. It is also hinted that Microsoft wants to court more free-to-play developers Xbox with these ads.

Interestingly, Microsoft seems very concerned about upsetting gamers who don’t normally expect to encounter ads in console games. This has led to a more cautious approach, with Microsoft creating a “private marketplace” to which only select brands are given access, in an attempt to ensure no ads disrupt gameplay.

Of course, this isn’t the first time companies have tried to put advertising in video games. Ironic, Saint row 2 already tried to do the whole “real world billboard” thing and it was a very funny and terrifying experience. But as free-to-play games continue to grow on consoles and it’s harder for younger gamers to advertise using existing methods, it’s not surprising that companies are trying to place ads in more and more video games.

And since consoles are walled gardens that don’t have easy access to mods or hacks, it means you can’t just install an ad blocker to hide those ads like you do when you visit kotaku. Microsoft makes new Xbox advertising technology for games

Curtis Crabtree

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