Microsoft patent monitors advertising in streaming online games • The Register

Microsoft appears to be extending its push for placing ads across products to online gaming.

In a patent filed earlier this year, Microsoft engineers envision a “non-intrusive” method of placing personalized ads and other content for players to see while playing a cloud-based or internet-connected game.

The patent points to the growing popularity of streaming games that are played on a variety of systems — like a laptop or cell phone — but “currently don’t offer personalization options that would provide a richer gaming experience.”

Microsoft therefore suggests that “a method and system for delivering immersive, personalized content via the online or cloud-based gaming platform is desirable”.

Basically, the message is that games are fun, but games with ads embedded in them are more Fun.

The patent describes an overlay technology that could determine when a particular person is playing a streaming game and determine a time within the game when the action has died down and the user is “below a threshold engagement count.”

During this time, the technology would display the content — say, favorite sports teams or brands — on-screen via an overlay video stream that is distinct from the game stream and rendered on-screen, at least in part, in real time during the low-action intervals.

The time to display the ad would be determined by reviewing a database of the user’s history of playing a game and records of games played, and then identifying and aggregating the user’s past interactions with the game to determine when the interactions were below this threshold. Similar techniques are used when deciding where to place the ads, including looking for locations within the game environment that are continuously visible.

According to drawings accompanying the patent, these locations could include an advertisement behind the goal of a soccer game, on a billboard on a highway, and on a game avatar’s clothing with product name, logo, or other information.

Content is selected from personalization modules or from a library of ads sourced from “content providers”, including Microsoft customers. The content selection module also receives input via signals from the game being played. The ad selection module receives data from both the personalization and ad collection modules and may include images, stock photos, and the like. Personalized ads can be selected based on the player’s profile and content that fits the game.

“For example, a user/gamer plays a car racing game,” Microsoft writes in the patent. The personalization module 122 may provide content categories that include running shoes, tennis gear, and car modification kits. Based on the context of the game (e.g. racing game), the content category selected for overlay may be Car Modification Kits.”

Critical to the system is that the content is displayed as an overlay throughout the game without having to add functionality to the game itself, which would be costly and put a greater burden on the game development teams.

The patent, first unearthed by Gamesual, outlines various ways this overlay system could be used beyond gaming services, such as with any application that delivers content via video streams. Additionally, service providers could set up online games that allow users to play the games for free or at discounted rates if they agree to see the ads or other content, instead of paying for a subscription to the game, similar to some streaming video services parse their offerings.

The overlay service is part of Microsoft’s ongoing effort to grow its advertising business. These included the ads in Windows 11’s Start menu and, earlier this year, in Windows Insiders’ File Explorer. In addition, the company is considering developing low-cost PCs that will be paid for through ads and subscriptions. The Windows giant has also reportedly been mulling over a “super app” that could help it grow its ad business.

The patent filing dates back a decade, when the company filed a patent for a content distribution system that dipped into TVs, PCs, and cell phones to identify each individual viewer of content and then billed the licensee for each. ® Microsoft patent monitors advertising in streaming online games • The Register

Rick Schindler

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