Simulmedia launches a new platform that connects marketers with game developers to offer players rewards for watching video ads.

While there is no shortage of controversy regarding it financially manipulative tactics in games, with numerous Microtransaction scandals come to mind, There is one cog in the capitalist machine that you are sure to avoid while playing console video games – advertising. But maybe not much longer.

Axios reported that a new platform is about to be launched with the intention of bringing TV-style ads to console games. It’s a no from me (and I can probably assume literally every other player).

Image: Simulmeida

The platform in question, called PlayerWON, has been described as “a first in-game advertising platform of its kind” that will enable marketers to place video advertisements in both console and PC games. The platform, owned and operated by the data-driven TV advertising company Simulmedia, is slated to launch this week.

The new venture is set to help marketers who traditionally opt for big TV ads rather than targeting younger audiences with video games, supposedly without sacrificing user loyalty. Simulmedia touts their ability to “connect your brand with engaged players without sponsorship packages or deep integrations” and instead emphasizes theirs Player-centered advertising formats, full transparency and cross-media integration.

absolutely not

– Dmitry P. on vacation 😎 (@Hambo_dev) June 30, 2021

Thankfully, unlike their televised counterparts, these ads will offer viewers at least some advantage. Users can choose to watch a 15- or 30-second video commercial to unlock exclusive gaming benefits – think of it like a microtransaction, but you pay with your attention instead of your money. It’s unclear if no video will be an option.

Simulmedia research concluded that the majority of gamers “enjoy receiving free rewards and content,” but it is misleading to perceive these perks as completely free. Herbert A. Simons famous model of the “attention economy” regards human attention as a scarce commodity of which we have limited quantities, so it has great value that can essentially be used for trade like any other resource.

This framework has been used by many modern scientists to study platforms like Facebook that are rated as “free” even though users pay for their access with attention and personal information that can be used as leverage to sell advertising space. Sure, many gamers might indeed appreciate receiving rewards for a low-hassle task like watching a video, but pretending these perks are free to the gamer is manipulative.

Image: Kongregate

Simulmedia research has been conducted for over a year and concludes that 76% of console and PC gamers “want the option to view ads in exchange for in-game rewards” and 86% of gamers “agreed, that they were allowed to watch rewarded video ads to “play the game longer”. They also found that, on average, players are willing to see six or more ads each day in exchange for in-game rewards.

They then created a platform that collects and reviews commercials from major brands that would normally appear on television. The company can then see if the ad has been fully viewed before sending a notification to the game allowing the reward to be released to the player (which can vary from game currency to new skins).

This process may sound familiar to fans of mobile gaming, but it is completely new territory for console games. With the proliferation of free-to-play games like Fortnite, Apex Legends, and Roblox, it is very likely that advertising will turn out to be a more desirable alternative to spending real money on these games. Hopefully the commercials will stick with these types of games instead of expanding into pay-to-play games.

I felt like EA was involved before I even read the article.

– Steve Esposito (@AgitatedStove) June 29, 2021

This new form of advertising has the potential to be huge. Simulmedia already has agreements with some major gaming studios, including EA (well known microtransaction fans) and Tencent’s Hi-Rez Studios, and they are working to expand their network of advertisers and developers who can be connected for in-console advertising opportunities.

Apparently, they plan to have in-game ads in at least a dozen games by the end of the year, so prepare for this new form of advertising to become a reality. Watch out, Black Mirror – it seems like we’ve already hit you.