An Xbox employee has commented as to how the architecture of the Xbox One dashboard has been created “with advertising in mind”. The team also gave us an exclusive insight into what the future of advertising on the Xbox One will and could look like using Kinect, Smartglass and personalised information.

I was invited to Microsoft and Xbox UK London HQ earlier this week to meet with members of the Xbox LIVE advertising team to discuss the current advertising strategies for the Xbox 360, and what gamers can expect from the Xbox One. During our 2 hour session, I fully expected to have my perceptions of what Microsoft thought of their hardware and how they utilised advertising on the platform to be firmly certified. What I found though is that, even on their home turf, my expectations of the answers from these three Xbox employees were frequently challenged.

One of the biggest revelations that took me completely by surprise was when the Senior Digital Art Director/UX Designer very openly confessed how, like many gamers, he found the inclusion of Kinect movement gameplay completely unnecessary in some AAA titles. “Lots of people are using Kinect for voice control on dashboard and some games. I’ve played Mass Effect and Dragon Age and it’s awesome, it’s amazing. You can speak to your mates, to your teammates and make them do stuff, you can change your weapons. It’s brilliant, it’s great.”

“But on the other side of that, I tried to play Forza 4 with Kinect and sitting for half an hour doing this (stretches arms out and mimics driving motion) and it’s silly. Just stick to the controller and do it properly.”

He went on to share his thoughts on the advantages and disadvantages to Kinect, commenting that “one of the disadvantages of Kinect is that’s it’s not always useful for certain interfaces. We’re all excited about the Minority Report of doing this stuff, but try doing that for half an hour. It’s not very pleasant and you might break something in your house. So actually you feel like the controller makes perfect sense in this situation, but the Kinect makes more sense when you’re doing something more interactive, a bit more engaging in a game or when you’re prompted.”

When it comes to Kinect and advertising, all adverts created for the current Xbox dashboard must be compatible with the controller and with Kinect, whilst ensuring that they “work exactly the same”. Interestingly enough though, the Xbox LIVE advertising team don’t have any current data on the engagement split between those who use a controller or Kinect, but they “would like to know”. What they do know is that “the users will turn on the Kinect when they are prompted to do it.”

Of course with the Kinect being bundled with the Xbox One, not only is there bound to be an increase in advertising engagement with the peripheral, but also the opportunity for more targeted advertisements. Xbox already utilise some form of minimal targeting, for example age and brand engagement, allowing them to serve personalised ads. “For example 18+ people; we can target these ads at people who haven’t used the LoveFilm app,” but Kinect and the Xbox One could allow them to take this to the next level.

“With the new Xbox One, the technology and Kinect has improved a lot,” commented the Technical Account Manager for Xbox LIVE Advertising, “so that actually the voice recognition, the way you speak to your Xbox and the transition between gaming and watching TV is a lot smoother, and hopefully we can transpire that into advertising that we do.” Gamers have already expressed concerns over the Kinect being able to spy on them and their habits, but it’s not quite at that level of CIA-grade espionage.

The attending Xbox LIVE Advertising Developer commented that they don’t actually receive a lot of the biometric information collected by Kinect. “This sort of works at two levels. There’s the game producers who have a different API, so a different set of code and system that they use, and they’ve got a lot more control of the whole thing,” he stated, “whereas from the advertising point of view we have a slightly more limited set, which is designed to protect the user. The company is very keen on protecting the user from any sort of abuse so we can’t do certain things.”

What could transpire in the future though is something that we’re already seeing with a lot of facial recognition technology and personalised information being used to target advertisements. For example, Kinect could detect how many users are in the room and could serve advertisements aimed at families, groups, or individuals. Additional information from your Xbox LIVE account could also influence these by using metrics such as your gender, age, location, media habits and more, and Microsoft are very aware of the potential around this.

“Xbox is moving more outside of the bedroom. We’re seeing much, much more people use it in living rooms where there is family, friends, there is lots going on, so there is a context of perceiving the content,” says the Senior Digital Art Director/UX Designer. “It’s not like when you’re at work when you sit in front of a screen and your experience is very personal. But with Xbox, it’s lots of people in front of once big screen. They are playing or watching together and advertising is being consumed in a totally different way.”

And like all advertising agencies, the Xbox team are just as interested in their audience. As an Xbox 360 user for around 4 years who never clicks on the ads and is fully aware on where they are placed on the dashboard, it was certainly interesting to hear their facts and opinions on the Xbox audience who do, and could potentially, engage with advertisements on the console.

“On Xbox, the ad is part of the actual experience, it’s not something that is outside. The only difference is that the advertisement we have is quite small and not disruptive so people are not aware of clicking on the banners because they know this is a part of the whole experience on the dash,” said the Senior Digital Art Director/UX Designer. “So the users know that this is something that when they click on it, they won’t be hit by something crazy or something dangerous like on the web. Everything that lands there, we create.”

The Xbox team are utilising something called ‘native advertising’ which is when the adverts are built into the actual content, as opposed to tacked on at the side or above. Statistics have shown that this sort of advertising achieves 52% more clicks than traditional advertising and combats ‘ad blindness’ – a situation where you automatically ignore advertising space on websites. However I and many other gamers are aware of where these ads are, negating this, so definitely expect a change in the future.

In addition to Kinect, Xbox seem very keen to push Smartglass and Surface, and while you’d expect an advertising firm to jump all over any additional opportunities to serve you ads, the Xbox team don’t actually have access and really aren’t that interested in having it unless it’s opening URLs or displaying visual content.

“We do have quite a lot of questions about how we can put together video with Surface but apart from the fact that it’s a controller and we already have two controllers that we have to deal with, this is just an unnecessary obstacle.”

“I’m always after very simple user journey so if someone forces me to introduce another step in the way, I will be fighting against it. Because technology is one thing that allows us to do lots of amazing stuff but sometimes people forget about that the technology is only the catalyst. If I have to use this technology I will use it because it adds something to the journey and the user experience, but just for the sake of using it I think it might be confusing for the user.”

So what about the future of advertising on the Xbox One? “It’s going to be an exciting transition though because the 360 console wasn’t built with advertising in mind, it was more of an afterthought, so we’ve had to adapt to the technology and how we work to fit them in to the console,” said Technical Account Manager for Xbox LIVE Advertising, “whereas this new one is going to have advertising in mind. So a lot of the limitations that we have now, hopefully the release of the boundaries will widened so the opportunities will be a lot greater.”

The next generation has also showed that publisher are incredibly interested in boosting the hardware’s social elements, and advertising on the Xbox One won’t be an exception. According the the Senior Digital Art Director/UX Designer, “We will definitely be focusing on sharing when we’re using the new engine for the ads on the new Xbox as it’s extremely important for us, but at the moment we cannot do it, mostly because of the authorisation system.”

It’s incredibly interesting to see that of all the people who typically get demonised in the games industry, the advertising team seem to be genuinely interested in providing a full and engaging experience for the users. Advertising is always going to be a part of the Xbox and many users will still disagree with personal information being used to target adverts, but I personally find that having the same information used by web agencies typically serving dull banners used to create something, usually with an incentive, much more rewarding.

Note: For those who may consider me to be some sort of Microsoft/Xbox fanboy, I’d like to direct you to this article.

What do you think about the current advertising on the Xbox? How do you feel about your information being used to serve you personalised advertisements? Let us know in the comments below or hit us up on Twitter and Facebook.

Categories: News, Xbox 360, Xbox One
28 comments
KimchiGaming
KimchiGaming

MICROSOFT ARE YOU CRAZY?!? STOP WITH THE BS!

mjaskot
mjaskot

I think the level of which this will annoy me is dependent upon whether or not I can opt out of my data being gathered and the level of which I can remove adverts.  If Microsoft truly had the consumer in mind they would offer a platinum service with absolutely no adverts for a much higher subscription cost and could throw in a free game every month or some free DLC credits.  Unfortunately Microsoft's team seems to be plagued with severe incompetence.  This advertising focus is obviously unpopular and should be left to be discussed behind closed doors not to the public (just like they should have with the DRM).  I understand the reality of advertisements and I know many people will say 60 dollars a year from each subscriber won't be enough to fund server costs, but the consumers should not be hearing about this as if its something they've been begging for.  I really feel that Microsoft needs to replace their current focus groups because they are failing them badly.

In short the marketing team should not be trying to sell this to consumers and should be focusing like hell on making the magical cloud actually improve games, showing off their exclusives at every possible opportunity, better selling the kinect to GAMERS, and maybe having every employee ask 10 friends before they announce an idea.

Omegadeadful
Omegadeadful

Ugh I just found out of this "Xbox one has advertising in mind" Crap articles just today. And man oh man are people really trying to troll MS on this. They act like ads will just jump out and pull them into their TVs or something. This is actually the only true article that makes this sound good, all the other articles copy and paste just bits and pieces from this article just to make it sound like the Xbox one will only show ads.

It seems like people are forgetting that some ads are actually news, and good news at that, like when they show that some arcade games are 50% or free, or if a dlc goes on sale, or whats happening in your favorite shows, shit just a couple weeks ago I saw an ad for the new season of true blood and I was like wow that looks good, because I kind of fell off the series and now I want to watch the new seasons.

Just crazy how people are really over reacting about this news, if Xbox 360 has ads then why wouldn't Xbox one have them to. And like I stated above some of the ads are actually good and people are acting like they are forcing ads on people, when you could just ignore them. Being forced to me means something you can't ignore. From the picture above it even looks like the ads will have their own tab like they would be in "trending" I would think or some other tab. Which could just be easily passed over.


Smithyy8
Smithyy8

People moaning that the xbox does more than just games? Get ready, unless your phone is some brick Nokia then you are probably using it for social media and Internet, to take photos and play games. I don't see you whinging that it does more than make calls and texts. Same principle, it still does the job you want it for, but offers you a more seamless connection to a variety of services you would more often than not use on a multitude of other devices.

jurjee
jurjee

So you still need to pay to see advertisement? Thank you Microsoft for making the it so easy to choose which console I'll buy next generation.

rocamx12
rocamx12

Great article! This is a hole new experience, this is the point when i ask myself? Do i preferred the same f***ing game console like ps4 or a hole new experience that includes tv, games, cloud computing, kinect 2.0 etc etc like xbox one? Im getting the xbox one. I have been a ps fanboy but whith the ps4 is same shit experience. Chaging to xbox, they got me now.

carlhowebass
carlhowebass

@Smithyy8 THANKGOD, someone with a brain, ive been banging this drum since they unveiled it. "I'm not going to get that phone because it has more features than this other phone", SAID NO ONE EVER. 

AeroHoshiyo
AeroHoshiyo

@Smithyy8 

When those services are eating up precious system resources that should be given to developers to make the best game they can, people have a right to be upset. Two whole GB of RAM and CPU cores are going to be squandered on background applications.

NoBullet
NoBullet

@Smithyy8 The difference is it was an inconvenience to carry multiple devices. Having them all in one was the best evolution of the smartphone. Theres no inconvenience of watching TV on your couch. And since everyone has a smartphone or tablet, whi cares about buying movie tickets and crap on your TV? This is all hamfisted crap to "own the living room" As a videogame hobyyist, this doesnt interest me, AT ALL.

Smithyy8
Smithyy8

In fact even on those old Nokia phones, I fucking LOVE snake.

thefoxxrox
thefoxxrox

@jurjee Oh jesus, you have to see an ad... That's just the worst huh? Fucking idiots like you are the reason I am glad to be buying an Xbox this time around... The community will be able to grow up and move away from the shit talking... Have fun on your Playstation

FeelGuy
FeelGuy

@rocamx12 You are the cancer that is killing gaming industry. I hope you enjoy it.

Smithyy8
Smithyy8

For me I'm also thinking ten years down the line, the life expectancy of this console. I'm not always going to have the time to game as hard as I do, and having one system does make it easier, no needs for a dvd or tv remote. Plus the xbox actually has the potential to connect your entire living room. Say you have a thermostat with Wifi, theoretically you can link that to your xbox and Controll that from your voice

NoBullet
NoBullet

@thefoxxrox @jurjee LMFAO accepting advertisement even though you paid a subscription. These are the same people that accepted to pay peer to peer online gaming for 2 console generations. MS love these suckers. They tried to do this shit on the PC, guess what, PC gamers are much more smarter than the average console tween that begs their mom to get a Gold account because they think thats the only way they can play a game online. LOL

jurjee
jurjee

@thefoxxrox @jurjee Yes, I think that's one of the worst developments in the console industry. That people like you accept that they earn another big amount of money for showing advertisements while those people already pay for their online service. Besides that I will not buy a console, I don't want to be limited by a console maker in what I can play and do with it.

FredFredrickson
FredFredrickson

@FeelGuy @rocamx12 No, people calling their fellow gamers a cancer just because they don't jump aboard the hate train are what makes this industry suck.

Honestly, why does it bother you so, so much that someone else might like the Xbox?

JoelDesjardins
JoelDesjardins

Except if they take the same approach as they did with the Xbox 360, it is very possible that every single feature, including TV, including thermostat control, will hinge upon you paying for on Xbox live Gold account. If that is the case, and you one day no longer game as frequently as you do, Then it is either pay the piper or watch the console lose about 80% of it's functionality.

iamjustin
iamjustin

@kevincurry@jurjee@thefoxxrox Right, so the internet providing freedom from mind numbing advertisements has created a generation of "spoiled twerps" and is a step in the wrong direction. We'll be over here enjoying what we pay for and you can enjoy your adverts.

jurjee
jurjee

@kevincurry @jurjee @thefoxxrox I haven't seen an ad on a long time. Am I spoiled? No at all, I know how to block them. I don't need big  companies to have my personal information.

kevincurry
kevincurry

@jurjee @thefoxxrox I'll be sure to let the newspapers, magazines, cable companies, etc... all know paying for something means you get no ads. The internet has spoiled twerps like you.

Linkedscorpion3
Linkedscorpion3

@jurjee @thefoxxrox @FredFredrickson @FeelGuy @rocamx12  people get the wrong idea of what MS means when they say advertisements. the second they hear the word, they cringe at the idea of some stupid life insurance company that pops up before you watch a video, or some popup window asking you to try the newest laundry detergent that cleans stains best. It's not that type of Advertisement. It's simply showing you related content on the dashboard that you MAY be interested in, it could be advertising a new season of the walking dead since you've every season before, or it could be letting you know when a double XP weekend of COD is going on since you've played 20+ hours of Ghosts last week. You are getting the wrong the idea about MS 'forcing' ads down your throat with popups and you're over-exaggerating. Gaming is a community with news, events, and reveals everyday and the only way people find out about them is if MS puts one little icon on your screen and you wanna cry about it. if that's the case, you should just stay in your home and look at the same basic "start:options:quit" screen because heaven's sake you're actually interested in something being advertised

jurjee
jurjee

@thefoxxrox @FredFredrickson @FeelGuy @rocamx12 The console community will never be full grown up, if you want a grown up community you should go to computer gaming. Most games, excluding games like League of Legends, have a great community and in most cases you can even have a nice chat with the developer(s) of the game.

FredFredrickson
FredFredrickson

@Epicent3r @FredFredrickson @FeelGuy @rocamx12 Nope. Not cancerous at all. Nobody said they like the Xbox just because they like looking at advertisements.

And with the way the new system is set up, there should be way less lag when you switch between games and the dashboard... at least, that's the theory. We'll see how it plays out.

In the meantime, we all knew there were going to be ads on Xbox Live. People don't seem to mind it much now. It would have been nice if it didn't, but there was no reason to expect it not to.

If you want to talk about things that might hurt the industry, consider what it'd be like if either the Xbox or PS were way ahead of the other? The last time Sony had a console crush the market, they tried to sell the next one for $700. And if MS dominated the console market, they would have never reversed their decision on DRM.

Choice for consumers is good. So suck it up and try not to get your feelings hurt too badly when you encounter people who like consoles you don't personally approve of.

Epicent3r
Epicent3r

@FredFredrickson @FeelGuy @rocamx12 because when someone likes the xbox simply because they enjoy getting spoon fed advertisements and such....it ruins the whole point of the console.  The games.   And us gamers... well we tend to stick together at least in the old fashioned sense of liking games.   I think the current 360 interface is horrible....it's more laggy and takes longer to load.  Because it's full of ads.  It's also harder to navigate to where things are due to more ads.  If someone likes the X1 because of the new games coming out...great.  But to enjoy being told what we want to see and what we want to like and what we want to watch just so another company we don't care about becomes richer....then that is cancerous.

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