Report: Future Xbox Games Might Have Ads, Tech’s Being Developed

Report: Future Xbox Games Might Have Ads, Tech’s Being Developed
Image: Xbox / Epic / Kotaku

Raise your hand if you’re excited to see more ads inside your favourite video games? I don’t see any hands. Well, bad news: A new report claims that Microsoft is building an advertising program to give “select brands” the ability to buy ads that will then appear in free-to-play Xbox games. And while the report says Microsoft and Xbox are being careful to not “irritate” players or disrupt games, it’s unlikely most folks will enjoy starting to see in-game ads.

Business Insider reports that 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 who spoke to Insider and who are reportedly involved with the program’s ongoing planning and negotiations.

According to these sources, the ads could appear as digitally rendered billboards in a racing game or open-world adventure. However, it’s currently unknown what other forms these free-to-play ads could manifest as, or if they will include videos or audio. Business Insider was also unable to confirm if Microsoft and Xbox have started pitching advertisers and brands on the new ad system. Regardless, it’s expected to launch around the third quarter this year.

A spokesperson for Microsoft told Kotaku that while it is “always looking for ways to improve the experience for players and developers” the company had nothing further to share about the reported ad system.

Read More: The 24 Best Games On Xbox Game Pass

As pointed out by Business Insider, Microsoft does already sell some limited ad space on its consoles via dashboard ads and certain in-game advertising deals through third parties. However, this new program is Microsoft and Xbox’s attempt to expand to more brands that are looking for ways to advertise to the growing gaming audience, many of whom are younger, don’t watch cable TV, and have become harder and harder to reach. It’s also suggested that Microsoft wants to court more free-to-play devs to Xbox using these ads.

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

Of course, this isn’t the first time we’ve seen companies try to shove ads into video games. Ironically, Saints Row 2 already tried to do the whole “real world billboards” thing and it was a very funny and terrible experience. But as free-to-play games become bigger and bigger on consoles and younger players become harder to advertise to using existing methods, it’s not surprising to see companies looking to place ads in more and more video games.

And because consoles are walled-off gardens, unable to access mods or hacks easily, it means you can’t just install an adblocker to hide these ads like you do when you visit Kotaku.



  • Microsoft have already got things in the works to put advertising in fuckin’ File Explorer… Of course they’re going to put them in video games.

    Eventually you’ll start up your console, PC, phone, etc, and be greeted with a fucking advertisement before you even see the login screen… And you’ll like it!

  • I mean free to play games are already full of ads. If it keeps it on a billboard rather than the typical pause and watch an ad model it’s arguably an improvement. Certainly not the deep innovation Microsoft will try and sell their cutting edge ‘what if we plastered it with ads’ strategy as but also not a huge upset to the status quo for those games.

    Obviously Microsoft being Microsoft will eventually allow everyone to get in on those sweet fractions of a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of a cent, someone there clearly has eyes on being Google Ads, and EA will release a AAA priced game with billboard ads front and center in every shot, but we’ve already been through this cycle so many times that we’re already avoiding all the relevant parties.

    The people who take advantage of this are going to be the same people who are already tanking their games with sleazy, hare-brained attempts at additional revenue streams. They’re already a lost cause. Meanwhile the people avoiding that stuff aren’t going to be won over by the siren call of clumsy, banner ad technology.

  • I’m sure they are worried about irritating gamers. But only because they are worried this will impact profits. They do not care one whit about Ads destroying a game’s immersion or annoying a customer, if that customer does not leave.

    They will attempt to introduce this subtly. Maybe a digital coffee cup on an NPCs desk will be a Starbuck’s coffee cup. Maybe the coffee machine with have Nespresso branding on it. Little, subtle things at first.

    Once that’s accepted, they’ll move onto clothing. Fashion NPC clothing based on real clothes you can buy, make the logos prominent. From crowd NPCs to story NPCs next, and then, why not player characters?

    If that’s accepted, well, the next step will be the player’s car, health items – hell, then why not collectables! “John Q Protagonist, the Evil-Men are going to destroy the City! Scattered around are several hundred CHEETOS POWER NODES (with real Jalapeno spice!) that you MUST collect to stop them. Only the snacktastic potential of CHEETOS can help us prevail!”

    Of course, when they do start making your character wear real life clothes and use real life products, they’ll be a button on the menu you can press that will direct you to an Amazon web page so you can buy it at a 5% discount. Just use code “FarCry8” or “MasterChief” to obtain your discount! Hell, dispense with the idea of selling you a real product – buy a digital version of the next Calvin Klein shirt for your character (lasts this season only, we wouldn’t want your character to walk around in OUT OF SEASON CLOTHES now would we!)

    Their dream is one in which the player will walk around a virtual office, blasting enemies with a Remington (TM) shotgun, snuffling down Merck-brand health potions, wearing rayban sunglasses and a coat from Burberry, while helpful pop-ups inform you that you can by what the enemy is wearing at your local Westfield shopping centre, for a DISCOUNT THAT GOES AWAY NEXT WEEKEND! BETTER HURRY TO THE SHOPPING CENTRE!

    And they’ll start small. They’ll be innocuous… at first. If you accept that, then down the slippery slope we’ll tumble!

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