VR Advertising, Virtually Real


Some time ago I wrote a little post on what Facebook would likely end up doing with any amount of VR dominance as far as trying to put as many ads as they can into it. Naturally they’re already making more progress toward it and opened up some API to developers who want more money at whatever cost. And really, taking out the whole VR aspect of this story is just reading as “Facebook wants developers to put random ads in games, paid or not”.

Specifically with concern to paid games, having any form of advertising in those has been contentious. Between the typical product placement where a real-world product just happens to exist with some consideration of context, like driving people to Pizza Hut and Tower Records in the original Crazy Taxi because those are places that could exist in a city at that time, and the more blatant efforts like the Nokia ringtone dance party in Disney’s Extreme Skate Adventure, and then just straight up putting full unskippable ads in games directly like NBA 2KCurrentYear, because turning basketball into a casino of microtransactions wasn’t enough.

After some actual experience in VR stuff, I can definitely say that there is some form of advertising and sponsored content here and there like anywhere else, and it’s really per-thing. It’s just up to whoever’s looking into this form of potential revenue to remember that the thing still has to be usable. In VRChat alone I’ve been to random worlds with ads placed on walls here and there, since they’re worlds from larger organizations in charge of virtual conventions for example, including the corporate booths, or sponsorships for VR type stuff in the default home world. It’s avoidable, which it should be, but exists since some things are offered for free in the general sense, including VRChat itself (which does also have a paid membership option for those who want to). And of course paid games are unlikely to have ads if they come from developers and publishers who don’t want to risk their playerbase. For those who don’t realize that risk, or are willing to take it in the hopes that they can just win through saturation and subsidizing cost, they’re just those kinds of people who would do that anyway, probably on mobile.

So far the Facebook Oculus thing is just showing off how to embed pretty much banner ads into whatever games without even so much as pretending they’re on a billboard or some other real-world advertising method that doesn’t get in the way of things. People who have issues with Facebook, such as myself, are considering that it’s a slippery slope from here and at some point there will be the equivalent of those random popup video ads on phone games advertising other phone games with practically zero quality standards. As I mentioned on the previous post, having no real quality control over ads is one thing in a banner or window but another thing in the whole field of vision. It’s an easy recipe for VR sickness, minimum. And of course it’s Facebook, so they’re saying they don’t sell data like motion mapping inside of a play area or retinal scans or whatnot but who knows when they go back on that if they already haven’t. Also if they start having ad-supported reduced cost devices I’m only going to be reminded of whatever the Gizmondo briefly was.

The main thing about advertising is it wants to be as inevitable as death and taxes. With Twitch still being hyper-aggressive about shoving ads into every stream they can and not letting anyone bypass them and therefore making the platform more unappealing each barrier they put up, to where I’d never consider monetizing through them now just out of principle for the few viewers who would stop by any stream I’d do if I do those again. And YouTube is just impossible to monetize now which is why everyone just puts in big often unrelated sponsored talks for over a minute at some random point in the video and also has Patreon on top of it. Yet the site still wants to run lots of ads anyway, even to where they might even be attempting to bypass adblock as well from what I can tell. If aggressive ad strategies push people out of one thing and into another, you can bet advertisers want their way into that next. VR is wide open for that kind of opportunity, and Facebook just wants the keys to the future in general.

As far as my stuff, I don’t want to be putting intentional non-ironic non-dumb-joke ads all over it. Definitely not on the site. Not blocking my streams. Any that end up on posted videos aren’t my doing and you’re welcome to circumvent those. If I did end up taking a sponsorship deal for whatever reason, I would be pretty critical of the process and have consideration of if I actually support the product, and make sure that they know I will speak my opinion as necessary, and if they don’t like it they can forget the whole thing. Of course this makes the idea of running a video host difficult if I wanted to go totally independent of big ad-filled corporate sites, as that sort of thing is expensive for whatever applied reasons.