(Photo: Tamara Bitter/Unsplash)There are few things you can do these days without being subjected to ads. Soon, playing console games will no longer be one of them.
Sony is working with marketing partners to design in-game ads, according to sources for Business Insider. Similar to how free mobile games tend to display ads at the bottom of the screen (or, frustratingly, in between levels), Sony’s goal is to incentivize developers to create games that are free to play but still monetizable. Each ad placement will be available for sale in a private marketplace, where businesses will be able to purchase slots in a similar fashion to other forms of advertising.
Unlike mobile games, however, PlayStation ads will be blended into the game’s environment. Though Insider specified the use of digital billboards in virtual sports stadiums, Sony might also find a way to sneak ads onto in-game product packaging, TVs, or clothing. Some ads might even “give viewers rewards for watching ads.”
Sources told Insider Sony has been looking into in-game ads since it released the PS5 about a year and a half ago. Coincidentally, Microsoft has been experimenting with the same; just a few days ago we talked about the ads that might soon pop up in free Xbox games, and now here we are. As one commenter on that story said: monkey see, monkey do.
Like Microsoft, Sony doesn’t appear to be very interested in taking a cut of the ad revenue once its in-game ads are in place (though Sony hasn’t yet delivered a final decision on that, so things may change). It’s instead “considering charging developers and publishers for data on consumer activity,” which would itself open up a new profit stream for the company.
Whether gamers will react positively to the ads is a different story. Many people are getting tired of being inundated with marketing material at every turn—this Reddit post saying the same comically points out that at least video games are ad-free—and games that don’t integrate ads well may risk turning off some of their fans. In the end, Sony and Microsoft may very well end up playing a game of figuring out the last straw: while a Coca-Cola bottle on a virtual coffee table might be fine, noisy in-game TV commercials might not be.