Xbox One Advertising Will Focus on ‘Protecting the User’

Jul 11, 2013 by  

Xbox One Player Bans

The original emphasis placed on the TV and multimedia functionality of the Xbox One may have been met with frustration by the core gaming community, but there’s no way of getting around it: Microsoft and Sony are counting on their next consoles to do more than just play games. So while first- and third-party developers work on completing games before the consoles launch, the manufacturers are focused on something else: advertising.

That might be a dirty word in this current climate of ad-supported iOS games and ‘freemium’ titles, but Microsoft sees things differently. In a recent showcase, the company’s advertising team explained that next-gen hardware means advertising on the Xbox One won’t just be more effective, but less offensive to users.

Speaking with the Xbox Live team in London, enthusiast site StickTwiddlers heard firsthand about the changes in direction that Microsoft is implementing with the Xbox One. For starters, while the Kinect functionality is being implemented by triple-A developers already, those on the team are willing to accept that motion controls aren’t the answer to everything.

Xbox One Kinect Privacy

As an unnamed Senior Digital Art Director puts it, it’s the more subtle aspects of the Kinect and player interaction that the team sees as a future for advertising:

“Lots of people are using Kinect for voice control on dashboard and some games. I’ve played Mass Effect and Dragon Age and it’s awesome, it’s amazing… one of the disadvantages of Kinect is that’s it’s not always useful for certain interfaces. We’re all excited about the Minority Report of doing this stuff, but try doing that for half an hour. It’s not very pleasant and you might break something in your house. So actually you feel like the controller makes perfect sense in this situation, but the Kinect makes more sense when you’re doing something more interactive, a bit more engaging in a game or when you’re prompted.”

The Technical Account Manager for Xbox LIVE Advertising elaborated on the importance of voice control, not motion control or attempts to ‘game-ify’ advertising:

“With the new Xbox One, the technology and Kinect has improved a lot, so that actually the voice recognition, the way you speak to your Xbox and the transition between gaming and watching TV is a lot smoother, and hopefully we can transpire that into advertising that we do.”

If that sounds a little too close to the ‘stand up and shout ‘McDonald’s to make the ad go away’ technology patented by Sony, don’t worry. Apparently, Microsoft isn’t quite ready to sacrifice user experience or trust in favor of advertising dollars:

“There’s the game producers who have a different API, so a different set of code and system that they use, and they’ve got a lot more control of the whole thing. Whereas from the advertising point of view we have a slightly more limited set, which is designed to protect the user. The company is very keen on protecting the user from any sort of abuse so we can’t do certain things.”

Xbox One Advertising

Given the amount of information that can now be gleaned from the new-and-improved Kinect and user profiles – ages, buying habits, whether the Xbox One is located in a central or private area (given the number of regular observers) – it’s good to know that Microsoft is drawing the line somewhere. The company didn’t exactly earn consumer confidence with their restrictive and unapologetic DRM policies, so muscling in on a player’s enjoyment in the name of advertising won’t seem out of the question for the system’s biggest detractors.

For now though, it seems that those entrusted with designing the Xbox One’s advertising strategy from the ground up have their heads in the right place (or are saying all the right things). It’s hard to believe that the growing disdain for their own customers exemplified by several social games won’t influence the bigger players in some way. But then, consumers consume, so motivating users to buy a product doesn’t have to be a nuisance – not according to the development team, anyway:

“I’m always after very simple user journey so if someone forces me to introduce another step in the way, I will be fighting against it. Because technology is one thing that allows us to do lots of amazing stuff but sometimes people forget about that the technology is only the catalyst. If I have to use this technology I will use it because it adds something to the journey and the user experience, but just for the sake of using it I think it might be confusing for the user.”

“It’s going to be an exciting transition though because the 360 console wasn’t built with advertising in mind, it was more of an afterthought, so we’ve had to adapt to the technology and how we work to fit them in to the console. Whereas this new one is going to have advertising in mind. So a lot of the limitations that we have now, hopefully the release of the boundaries will widened so the opportunities will be a lot greater.”

Xbox One Name Explanation

Although hardware and processing power is usually where the battle between console makers takes place, this generation is starting out a little differently. Microsoft is putting their emphasis not on the hardware but the overall experience, rewarding sociable players and punishing the most offensive. That’s no guarantee that the company will truly avoid annoying or abusing users at every turn, but it’s certainly a promising direction.

Do you believe that both console makers will realize that annoying gamers isn’t an effective strategy for selling products? Would advertising being integrated into games – not unlike product placement in film or TV – make them less annoying, or more so? Share your thoughts in the comments.

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Follow Andrew on Twitter @andrew_dyce.

Source: StickTwiddlers

6 Comments

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  1. To be fair I don’t know what will happen at this point(with both companies because as of now it’s all talk) but I sure do hope they they put the ads aside. I recently just got back on Xbox live and the ads for the most part don’t bother me or annoy me in any sense. I just don’t know at this point but I hope they both can come to a conclusion that is good for everyone.

    • Yeah, adds don’t bother me either. For the most part I just ignore them, but I would love it if there was a way Microsoft could look at the games you’ve played, the movies you’ve watched, the music you’ve listened to (etc.) and filter adds to things that you might be interested in. Then I’d actually have an incentive to watch the adds I’m currently ignoring.

  2. Im sorry, if i’m going to spend 500 dollars for a gaming console, then I expect ZERO ads. I dont want to see any Mt dew or doritoes ads for a product that I spent LOTS of money to purchase. And I cant understand the complacency that some people have towards ads, as long as they’re funny or targeted towards their likes. Paying money for ads is just WRONG!! If they’re going to infuse ads into the console, then the console should be free. Thats why iPhones apps with ads are FREE and you pay money for an ad-free experience. The more complacent gamers are with accepting ads, the more ads you’re going to see intrude into our gaming experience. My PS and PS2 didnt have ads, and sony, somehow, was able to make money and be profitable.

    • Wtf are you talking about paying money for ads? YOU pay money for the console and as I said in the top comment ads don’t bother ME(as in myself) I cannot speak for everyone.If you look out the window or better yyet scroll the page up their are ads on this page and all you.So far as don’t affect my gaming one bit( I talked to people who hated ads more then you and they even admit it doesn’t have anything to do with intruding on gaming). As bluSPECTRE said if ads can link you to thing that YOU like then it’s not a problem it’s more sharing commonalities that’s a major plus. Ad’s are whatever to me it seems as a late this as become something that is getting totally blown out of proportion, if you have a problem with ads..its simple..put in your game and play simple as that. The 0.5 seconds it takes to do that you won’t be paying attention to ads..considering online wasn’t what it was during the PS2 and PSP days then that is pretty obvious btw.

  3. People always jumpt to the most negative conclusions about microsoft. Never understood that. People assume MS is going to do things that would result in the doom of their company. Weird sorta.

    People assume the Xbox One is going to just throw ads in front of you in the middle of games and pause them if you look away and force you to repeat “I will eat more McDonalds” ten times before you can play your game. Here is what advertising will likely be about on X1.

    1) Game ads, similar to today, but more tuned to your purchase and play history. Not much different than PS3 or 360. Stuff is there ready to be bought and you can peak at it and what not.

    2) Ads for TV and exclusive content. They will give Halo away to Gold members, but there will be ads. They will have other programing content, perhaps even Hulu free version with ads. The ads will be for when you watch TV on services that have ads. Netflix and HBO you are fine, no ads.

    3) The ads they do have will be targeted ads. This is sort of like on PC when you browse the internet and they know your cookies. With Kinect, one advantage is they can see if an underage player is signed in or who is all in the room and target ads appropriately. If husband, wife, and two children are there you might see one ad. But if it is just the husband, another ad. Microsoft would be able to charge more for ads when they are targeting them better than PC or cable, which could give them the ability to get a lot of “free”, or ad supported, TV and movie content than a company would normally give away. People are pissed about this now, but just wait until you are watching new episodes of Walking Dead without a cable TV package, for free.

    4) One crazy thing they could do is buy the ad space from cable companies, to show you targeted ads instead of the ads normally shown to you by your cable box. Think, when the commercial hits for whatever NFL game you are watching on cable, suddenly the X1 drops in an HD ad that they preloaded from the internet that is targeted to the people in the room. Instead of a viagra commercial, you and your buds are hit with a beer commercial with some babes in it. Or a video game commercial. During the video game commercial, you can say “xbox, download demo”.

    Lots of crazy stuff they can do, and none of it is really that nefarious. Creepy maybe. But at the end of the day as long as the market has competition, targeted ads should eventually result in you having to watch less ads, or being provided more content per ad, because they are no longer wasting ads on non-demographics.

    Also they could probably do things with pinterest/amazon/ebay/etc for different users as well, much like google does with your email and such.

    • Quite honestly, I thank you for your ability to see that Microsoft is not out to gobble up our money, and that what they do can, despite what the world seems to think, be good. Thank you.

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