Mark Zuckerberg’s ongoing quest to turn every Facebook property into ad-riddled real estate hit a snag this week when the only virtual reality game that publicly offered to onboard Oculus’s VR ads (rightfully) backed down.
Originally, Facebook set out to test its first iteration of VR ads in Blaston, a $10 multiplayer title for the Oculus Quest that was created by the prolific VR games publisher Resolution Games. The idea of being pummeled with VR ads in a game is bad enough, but the fact that players were going to be pummeled in a game they already paid for was enough to set some players over the edge. Pretty much immediately after Facebook announced its plans to blast Blaston’s users with ads, the game’s page on the Oculus store was pummeled with one-star reviews.
“If we were OK with ads we would play some of the thousands of free games supported by ads instead of purchasing what we think is a premium product. Remove the ads or give us our money back,” wrote one reviewer.
“Why on earth am I going to see ads for a game I paid the full asking price for on a headset I paid the full asking price for?” asked another. “Are they REALLY that strapped for cash that they need to squeeze every penny out of us?
Less than a week after these reviews started pouring in, Blaston backed down. “After listening to player feedback, we realize that Blaston isn’t the best fit for this type of advertising test. Therefore, we no longer plan to implement the test,” the company wrote in a Twitter thread posted Monday afternoon. About three hours later, the company added that it did have plans to roll out a “temporary test” of Oculus’sVR ads in another one of its games—a free-to-download fishing title called Bait!.
There’s a lot we still don’t know about what ads will look like in the Oculus environment, and whether those ads will be as much of a privacy shitshow as Facebook’s other myriad ad products. In a blog post that Facebook put out announcing the first VR ad trials, the company promised that the company would only be siphoning minimal bits of data from any ads beamed onto the Oculus platform; metrics like whether you clicked on an ad or opted to close it, for example. The post promised that certain device data—like your movements, any audio your mic picks up, or your height, weight, and gender data that you provide—won’t be used for ad targeting. Whether you actually believe what Facebook’s saying is up to you.