Xbox One is designed with adverts in mind, a number of Microsoft staff have told Stick Twiddlers in an interview - advertisers may take advantage of Kinect's facial recognition features to serve up user-tailored offers while you're watching TV shows or playing games. That said, the manufacturer is "very keen" to avoid abusing the trust of its customers.
"With the new Xbox One, the technology and Kinect has improved a lot," a technical account manager told the site, "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 [sic] that into advertising that we do."
Microsoft launched an experimental interactive "Nuads" campaign late last year, allowing advertisers to present users with polls during playback of relevant content. The program has proven a considerable success. Marketing materials for advertising opportunities on Xbox tout the capacity to "transform passive TV advertising into something interactive, immersive, and actionable, redefining the relationship between consumers and brands with amazing new advertising opportunities". According to Stick Twiddlers, ads that are actually built into content itself achieve 52% more clicks than those displayed on the front-end.
Many players aren't quite as keen, objecting that too much Xbox dashboard space is given over to adverts. The announcement of the new, always-on Kinect has given rise to an associated controversy - some fear it will be used to clandestinely gather data about players which is then sold to advertisers, though Microsoft assures that the device has watertight privacy settings.
Providing users allow it, possible applications for the new Kinect include tracking how many people are in the room and displaying adverts appropriate for either individuals or families. More broadly, the new Xbox might monitor your Xbox Live activities in order to serve up ads that target your gender, age or location.
There are already a number of checks and balances in place, to safeguard the system against exploitation. According to another, unnamed source spoken to by Stick Twiddlers, advertisers don't have access to the same tools as Kinect developers. "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. 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."
According to a senior digital art director, Xbox Live itself is a safer environment for advertising consumption than the internet at large. "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.
"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."
User recommendations appear to be a priority for future advertising strategies. "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."
A technical account manager described the transition to Xbox One as "exciting", as "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, 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."
Thanks for reminding me of this, Nowgamer.