Could In-Game Ads Be the New Norm?

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Could In-Game Ads Be the New Norm?

By Toin Villar Published 2 hours ago

With Microsoft and Sony both looking at incorporating in-game ads into their titles, could we be seeing a worrying new status quo? Let's explore.

Microsoft and Sony are planning to incorporate in-game ads into Xbox and PlayStation, respectively. This might not be something all that new to video games—in-game ads have been around for a while now, although some of these have been much better welcomed than others.

But with the news of Microsoft and Sony's plans, could in-game ads become the new norm? And, would this be a good or a bad thing for gamers?

Microsoft and Sony Are Looking to Incorporate In-Game Ads

A pair of hands holding a game console in front of a television

Looks like some of your Microsoft and PlayStation games might showcase the most popular products companies have to offer.

First, it was Microsoft looking to incorporate ads into its games. Then, Sony also started developing in-game ads for select PlayStation titles. Though both companies plan to do so in a way that doesn't hinder your gameplay experience, could this be the start of in-game ads becoming commonplace?

Ads aren't a wholly new thing to video games. Nonetheless, Microsoft and Sony's plans could have a major impact on the video game industry, as the companies look for ways to create new profit avenues with in-game ads.

Could In-Game Ads Become the New Norm?

A billboard with a blue sky behind it.

Microsoft, for its part, is yet to announce whether it will roll out its plans at all. Sony, on the other hand, expects to put its plans into motion by the end of 2022, so it might not be so long until we start spotting these in-game ads in our favorite video games.

The companies' plans, nevertheless, are still in development, and they first need to find games and partners to support them. This makes it very likely that we start spotting ads in first-party titles since those are funded and published by Microsoft and Sony.

It's also most likely that in-game ads will first be trialed in free-to-play games. This makes complete sense since there were already a couple of attempts at placing in-game ads in paid games that failed because of gamer backlash. As these are already common in free-to-play games, they will probably have the option to be disabled through premium accounts.

Past Instances of Ads in Video Games

An advertisement on a billboard on the front of a building.

Ads as such aren't really all that strange to either Microsoft or Sony. Currently, you can spot ads on the Xbox dashboard and on PlayStation menus, where developers usually promote their games.

Nor are in-game ads completely strange to video games in general; a certain PlayStation cult-classic platformer named after a popular soft drink quickly comes to mind. There are other more subtle examples, such as Chrysler and Jeep being featured in Splinter Cell: Double Agent and Tomb Raider, respectively.

But there have been other less than subtle attempts at integrating in-game ads into video games.

In 2020, EA came under fire when the company placed a full-screen ad in one of its games, causing the ire of gamers. The ad featured a spot for Amazon's TV series The Boys and was integrated into the full-release version of EA Sports UFC 4. The company's move caused such a backlash from gamers that it was forced to reverse the decision, removing the ad.

Similarly, in 2020, 2K caused an uproar among gamers for adding unskippable in-game ads to the full-price version of one of its games before reversing the move. The ads had been placed in the full-release version of its basketball sim NBA 2K21's pre-loading screens across all platforms.

Is This a Good or a Bad Thing for Gamers?

A person playing in a game while wearing headphones.

Although in-game ads have been controversial in the past, controversy mostly revolved around how disruptive they were to gameplay. Other past instances of in-game ads that blend well into the game have mostly gone unnoticed. Or, at the very least, gamers have not complained about them.

This realization is what's led both Microsoft and Sony to rethink their ad placing strategy, with the companies currently looking for partners and encouraging developers to look at ways they could include in-game ads. The problem is that the prospect of unlocking new avenues for revenue could negatively affect the industry's video game-making creative process.

Ultimately, what could result from this is that the industry would only develop titles capable of incorporating ads, allocating more resources to the development of specific genres while neglecting others.

In-Game Ads Are Here to Stay

With the news that Microsoft and Sony are looking into ways to incorporate ads into their products, it is very likely that in-game ads will see a meteoric rise. And, although the companies are looking to do it in an immersive, non-disruptive way, it could still be a bad thing for gamers.

The incentive of large advertisement revenues could lead developers to focus solely on creating in-game ad-capable titles instead of focusing on more important things, such as gameplay mechanics. Whatever the case, it seems like ads are inevitably going to be ever more present in video games.

About The Author

Toin Villar (36 Articles Published)

Toin is an undergraduate student majoring in English, French, and Spanish and minoring in Cultural Studies. Mixing his passion for languages and literature with his love for technology, he uses his skillset to write about technology, gaming, and raise awareness about privacy, and security.

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