Yesterday, Facebook announced it is introducing advertising into gameplay in its Oculus headset. Adding ad support into video gaming on its emerging virtual reality platform is not a surprising move from a company that derives 97% of its revenues from advertising.
Facebook cited its move as “a key part of ensuring we’re creating a self-sustaining platform that can support a variety of business models that unlock new types of content and audiences.”
Providently, Facebook made it clear that it wants the Oculus ad experience to be “built for people first,” so it will be enabling Oculus users to set ad preferences in its controls to block certain ads or certain advertisers. While it’s not as people-first as making the ads opt-in or rewarded, it is an important step in creating an ad experience with gamer-friendly elements.
My hope is that the user ad controls are just a first step, and that over time Facebook will truly put the advertising under the control of the players: specifically, making ads opt-in, skippable and rewarded. Players who watch and interact with ads should be able to shape the experience and share in the revenue they create, not just be money-makers for the platform.
If there is anything I have learned from the time I have spent around the video game industry of late, it’s that everything revolves around the gamers, and that centricity is a good thing. Yes, an enormous, almost $200 billion annual industry has grown up around video gaming, but the industry is entirely dependent on keeping gamers at the center and in charge.
Gamers’ active interactions create and drive their media experiences. That’s nothing at all like most of our other media experiences -- from television viewers’ relatively passive consumption of a video stream, or a web searcher's selection from a set of prebuilt text links.
The video game ecosystem is special, and I am an enormous believer that commercial communication -- advertising -- will play a big part in it. I am hopeful that steps like Facebook’s to enable user controls over Oculus advertising will inevitably lead to giving greater and greater ad control to the gamers.
As noted professor and entrepreneur “SuperJoost,” Joost van Dreunen, reminded us today relative to Netflix's most recently reported desire to move into video games: “Ask not what games can do for you.”
Can’t say it any better.