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Oculus to Test In-Headset Ads in Select Games

Oculus VR
(Image credit: Oculus VR)

Looks like immersion doesn’t quite beat monetization — Facebook is going to start putting in-headset ads 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, 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."

Oculus Ad Example

(Image credit: Oculus)

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.

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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.

Michelle Ehrhardt

Michelle Ehrhardt is an editor at Tom's Hardware. She's been following tech since her family got a Gateway running Windows 95, and is now on her third custom-built system. Her work has been published in publications like Paste, The Atlantic, and Kill Screen, just to name a few. She also holds a master's degree in game design from NYU.

  • hotaru.hino
    If it blends in the background, like say a billboard, then I won't mind. Plenty of games have had ads or product placement integrated in an inconspicuous way.

    But if it's like a banner on the bottom that doesn't go away or you're forced to look at them? No, eff that noise.
    Reply
  • anscarlett
    hotaru.hino said:
    If it blends in the background, like say a billboard, then I won't mind. Plenty of games have had ads or product placement integrated in an inconspicuous way.

    But if it's like a banner on the bottom that doesn't go away or you're forced to look at them? No, eff that noise.
    Even if they start as inconspicuous ads, they won't stay that way. The advertising industry cannot be trusted, it won't be long before you're solving captchas inside ads to dismiss them from the screen.
    Reply
  • bigdragon
    You lost me at ads that play audio needing to be muted -- as opposed to being muted by default -- and having to report ads (this implies Facebook is not paying employees to vet ads and expects the users to do it for free). Also, seeing those ads in games with price tags is a big problem. Free to play, sure. Priced? Nope.

    It may be time to upgrade away from a first-gen Quest. Nice headset. Used it way more than expected. Facebook will likely ruin it with obnoxious ads though.
    Reply
  • kaalus
    Who in their right mind would buy anything affiliated in any way with Facebook?
    Reply