Facebook Reality Labs (FRL) has announced that in-headset advertisements are being trialled on Oculus devices.
In the announcement FRL states that it is “eager” to hear feedback on this endeavour as it’s rolled out but what’s odd is that adverts aren’t positioned as a way for free software to make money, but it’s instead being tested in a game that is already a paid product.
The game Blaston is mentioned by name here as the first title to receive said ads. Blaston is already a paid experience costing $9.99 (~R140) on the Oculus store.
Developers and publishers have been experimenting with in-game ads in paid games for a while now trying to see how far this monetisation model can be pushed. The worst offender so far has been NBA 2K21 which added unskippable adverts to the $60 game just a month after release last year.
The VR adverts shown in this demonstration gif here seem to be less intrusive in comparison with the ad showing up in the game’s environment. Players can interact with this advert and even report it should they feel so inclined, or bring up information about why they’re seeing it.
“Ads are most effective when they’re high-quality and relevant—because of that, Oculus ads will follow Facebook’s advertising principles, the first of which is ‘build for people first.’ It’s also important that people can manage the ads they see, so we’re including controls to hide specific ads or hide ads from an advertiser completely,” the announcement adds.
Facebook is quick to point out that this experiment does not change its privacy or advertising policies set in place beforehand. Privileged information such as that stored in the headset, as well as conversations with other users, will not be used for adverts or targeting.
Many people were worried that changes like this would be make after Facebook acquired Oculus and then made Facebook accounts mandatory to use Oculus hardware.
This news, of course, reminds us of the scene from 2018’s Ready Player One where adverts were also planned to be added to the VR world. While many have mostly forgotten about this movie it contains a famous line that’s relevant here: “we estimate that we can sell up to 80 percent of an individual’s visual field before inducing seizures”.