Microsoft is supposedly planning to allow advertisers to purchase ad space in free-to-play games on Xbox platforms, according to a recent report by Business Insider. The tech giant wants to build a private marketplace for brands to partner with game developers. For example, an advertiser could buy a billboard ad within Fortnite and advertise its products in the game.
According to Business Insider’s sources, Microsoft is not planning to take a cut of in-game ad revenue. This ad platform could be a way for developers of free games to generate more revenue outside of skins and battle passes. Microsoft is currently looking for an advertising tech company to partner with for the Xbox ad network. Advertising revenue would be shared between the game developer and the advertising partner. “We are always looking for ways to improve the experience for players and developers but we don’t have anything further to share,” said a Microsoft spokesperson in a statement to Business Insider.
Some industry analysts believe that in-game ads could become a feature on all gaming platforms. According to Report Ocean, global in-game ad revenue is expected to grow to 18.41 Billion USD by 2027. Some might see this program as controversial, with some players comparing it to the predatory schemes of loot boxes and microtransactions. Despite these comparisons, Microsoft is reportedly approaching this program with caution, and wants to find a way to implement in-game ads without disrupting the gameplay experience.
In-game ads are, of course, not a new concept. Games like Saints Row 2, for instance, even had real-life live billboards for companies, such as ones for Netflix, within the game. While most players might not have had a problem with in-game ads back then, many do now. With games usually costing well above $50 now, most players would want an untainted game free of any ads. It seems like this may be the reason for Microsoft pushing in-game ads into its free-to-play experiences. However, at the moment, it’s unclear how the company will do that exactly.