Looks like immersion doesn’t quite beat monetization — Facebook is going to start putting in-headset ads (opens in new tab) in certain Oculus games within the next few weeks. Welcome to the digital frontier! Instead of the Gateway Arch, we have a McDonald’s billboard.
Don’t expect to have to karate kick pop-ups quite yet, though. According to a post Oculus made on its blog yesterday (opens in new tab), this is going to be a slow rollout. The ads will first appear in the Resolution Games title Blastion, plus in a few unnamed games from "a couple other developers."
"This is a test with a few apps," the post explains. "Once we see how this test goes and incorporate feedback from developers and the community, we’ll provide more details on when ads may become more broadly available across the Oculus platform."
If you’re worried that these ads will show up as simple flat windows over your best VR headset footage, at least it seems like they’ll be more naturally integrated than that. A sample gif from the Oculus post shows an ad placed on an in-game wall, with the user able to click on it to access some customization options.
These include the ability to save the ad link for later, to mute it if it plays audio, to report it if it breaks any rules, to hide it and to find out why the algorithm targeted that specific ad towards you. In other words, it’s a very similar menu to ads on Facebook itself, although Andrew Bosworth tweeted out that there will be differences.
You can manage what ads you want to see and we’re including controls to hide specific ads or hide ads from an advertiser completely. Ads in VR will be different from ads elsewhere and this is a space that will take time and people’s feedback to get right https://t.co/dHOlqHoOVFJune 16, 2021
He also, very bravely, asked for feedback, which you can submit by reaching out to Oculus Support.
These ads might also explain why Oculus is going to start requiring Facebook accounts to use its devices. A Facebook spokesperson told the Verge that the ad system will use information from your Facebook account, including “"hether you’ve viewed content, installed, activated or subscribed to an Oculus app, added an app to your cart or wishlist, if you’ve initiated checkout or purchased an app on the Oculus platform, and lastly, whether you’ve viewed, hovered, saved, or clicked on an ad within a third-party app."
That said, the company still promises that "We do not use information processed and stored locally on your headset to target ads."
It’s possible that this ad system might also be an attempt to bring a mobile-like experience to the Oculus store. On mobile, many games are free and supported by ads, and Oculus’ blog closes out by saying "We’re excited by the opportunity to open up new revenue streams for developers and as a result, broaden the type of apps and content on the Oculus Platform. A more profitable ecosystem is a critical step on the path to consumer VR becoming truly mainstream."
Let’s just hope it doesn’t undercut the whole point of visiting another reality.