Microsoft is testing the implementation of ads in its free-to-play games, Business Insider reports.
The program would boost Xbox's ad inventory, allowing it to sell in-game advertising space in the form of digitally rendered billboards. It's possible the ads would be even more intrusive, in the form of video ads in game lobbies or sponsored avatars, but Insider was unable to confirm those possibilities one way or the other.
Microsoft is aware of the possible negative reaction from gamers to in-game ads, and is said to be proceeding with caution, limiting which brands can could place the ads and in ways that wouldn't disrupt gameplay.
Microsoft is said to be uninterested in receiving revenue from the ads, aiming instead to share that revenue with the developers of the games themselves and the adtech company that places the ads. One of Business Insider's sources speculated that the ads were partially motivated by providing free-to-play developers more revenue opportunities.
The push for an in-game ad network reportedly began in 2018 or 2019, but picked up steam in 2020 when the Xbox Series X|S was released and free-to-play titles such as Fortnite leapt in popularity.
Microsoft expects to be able to implement these new ads by the third quarter, per Business Insider. Microsoft itself would not confirm the plans.
"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 spokesperson.