How does a free-to-play game make its money? In an ideal, sunny, happy world, it would sell cosmetics or expansions and continue to generate a tidy profit so it would update and grow for years, but Microsoft is apparently pondering another way for Xbox games of this kind to get some cash: in-game advertisements from certain brands.
According to insider reports, Microsoft is looking to apply ads for real-world brands into certain free-to-play Xbox titles, such as billboards in racing games as an example, in a scheme that’s similar to the existing mobile advertising model. The companies that would be allowed to buy such digital ad space would come from a “private marketplace” of select brands to ensure that the ads wouldn’t be jarring to the overall gameplay experience, and Microsoft would not initially take a cut of any ad revenue.
Those with long memories will recall that Microsoft has done this sort of thing before, with political advertisements for Barack Obama being applied to the Xbox 360 version of Burnout Paradise in 2008. The ad firm Massive Inc., which was acquired by Microsoft in 2006, was responsible for these ads in what was Microsoft’s first foray into in-game advertising, but the business model didn’t materialize and Microsoft shuttered that portion of its business in 2010.