Unless you live somewhere like North Korea, chances are that every day you’re confronted with hundreds if not thousands of adverts bidding for your hard-earned cash. It’s one of the prices we have to pay for living in a capitalist society and even our movies can be filled with product placements.
It turns out that (ironically) not even virtual reality can provide an escape from hungry marketing departments. You see, HTC now has its very own VR ad service. Yay!
A Long Time Coming
It should not be terribly surprising that advertisements make their way into a new medium. It is surprising that HTC seems to have beaten Facebook to the punch however. Facebook has been pitching Oculus-based ads as far back as 2015 but the HTC approach seems more mature in practice and will provide adverts in-game.
What Are You Looking At?
One of the most interesting implications of ads delivered to your via a Vive is the fact that you can tell when the user is looking at an ad. This means the sales model HTC is using can incorporate billing that knows if an ad has been watched or not.
This sort of thing is not really a problem with things like Google Adwords, since the user either does or does not click, on the ad. On platforms like YouTube it’s been harder to accurately measure if a user is actually paying attention to an ad or not. It’s one of the reasons that YouTube has set a minimum time an ad must be watched before the advertiser is actually charged for it.
It seems with the HTX solution you’ll only pay for the ad if the user looks at it on purpose.
In a world where the free-to-play video game model is becoming more and more common, developers are looking for any additional revenue streams. What HTC is offering to them here may be very attractive indeed. They have to opt-in to the advertising program and then incorporate the ads into their games.
How much of an irritation this could be in a game may depend on the type of game it is. Sports games such as racing sims or games that depict urban environments where having ads is actually expected may actually provide a better experience with ads. Having a Coca-Cola ad pop up in your medieval fantasy game perhaps not so much.
Ads are not a problem in principle, but if they ever start to chip away at the enjoyment of your VR experience it can have negative results for both users and advertisers.
YouTube has learnt this lesson the hard way and that’s why they are killing unskippable ads, so we better hope that VR advertisers are not too overzealous. Who are we kidding though, right? VR ads will probably make the ads in Blade Runner or Back to the Future II look tame in comparison.