Last month Roblox, the game creation platform, announced the launch of its new advertising network, the Roblox Partner Program.
Now that it’s out, what do these 'immersive ads' actually look like? Well, it seems they don’t look too different from efforts from other companies elsewhere in the gaming, and mobile gaming, space. Over on MobileDevMemo, E.B. Seufert - who also wrote an article back in 2020 espousing the up and coming potential of Roblox as an advertising platform - broke down the different types of advertising available through the partner program.
He categorises them in two ways, “Static non-clickable images that simply conveys information,” and, “A static, non-clickable image that can transport the exposed user into a separate content “experience” created by the advertiser.” You may already notice a similarity to the work of other companies such as Bidstack and intrinsic advertising, where adverts are placed diegetically in a game world, a simple example of which might be a billboard in-game carrying an advert just as it would in real life.
It seems that Roblox are eager to pursue this trend, but how does this fit into the existing set-up of experiences for the platform?
Alex Nunan from Bidstack sports - another company strongly pursuing intrinsic advertising - summed up the potential of intrinsic advertising in our interview with him earlier this year. “By delivering relevant content seamlessly into virtual environments, communication can be even more impactful than the real-world equivalents where brands are often forced to direct their messaging to a fraction of the global fanbases tuning in,” he said.
The appeal of intrinsic advertising for Roblox is obvious, given that users interact with a huge variety of environments throughout the platform. By placing adverts within the game world they can appear more frequently, but less intrusively, than pop-ups or videos played automatically as in some other titles. Within the game world of Roblox, billboards have often been used to advertise experiences and explain key aspects of game experiences and their controls, so players are already primed to understand and react to these placements.
However, Seufert cites his previous article when speaking about the potential issues this can cause. “Given Roblox’s audience - over half of all children in the United States play games through Roblox - the company of course needs to treat targeting and data privacy with intense sensitivity and care.”
With intrinsic advertising it’s possible that advertisements which violate Roblox’s standards, but aren’t caught before being placed, could cause an issue precisely due to their visibility. Careful management of advertisements will be key, especially as Roblox is now introducing experiences for 17+ audiences that might deal with themes, such as violence, unsuitable for younger players. If immersive ads link to those then there will likely need to be controls on who can use them and how. There are some caveats of course, as Roblox’s guidelines for example prohibit these new immersive ads linking to outside sources, or compel users to leave the platform, helping to ensure the company has more control over the advertising.
However, some potential issues do remain, and Roblox has already come under fire before for violating watchdog guidelines with regards to advertising to younger users. And although their new partner program does present a myriad of opportunities for users wanting to advertise, it may also present new and unforeseen problems in the near future. You can bet that Roblox managers and their users will be monitoring their new ads and reactions to them very carefully.