Facebook is to begin testing ads in its Oculus Quest virtual reality headsets, in spite of an earlier claim that it would never do so.
The company, whose revenues primarily come from advertising, said it would begin displaying ads in the Resolution Games title Blaston as well as two other unnamed apps in the coming weeks.
It said it would continue to expand the advertising system based on user feedback as it aims to create a “self-sustaining platform” for VR development.
In 2017, shortly after Facebook’s 2014 acquisition of Oculus, founder Palmer Luckey told The Next Web, “We are not going to track you, flash ads at you, or do anything invasive.”
Luckey left Oculus later that year, and co-founder Brendan Iribe departed in 2018.
Games have long been used as promotional tools, but the upcoming Oculus ads resemble conventional web or mobile ads.
Users can click on them to launch a page in the Oculus web browser, or save them for future reference. They can also block specific posts or companies from appearing in ad slots.
Facebook said it isn’t changing how it collects or analyses user information, and that sensitive data such as raw images captured by the Oculus headset cameras will remain on the device.
The company said it has “no plans” to target ads based on movement data or recordings from the Oculus voice assistant.
Facebook introduced ads into the Oculus mobile app last month and has used limited Oculus data to target Facebook advertising since 2019.
The company began requiring Facebook logins for Oculus devices last year.
“Once we see how this test goes and incorporate feedback from developers and the community, we’ll provide more details on when ads may become more broadly available across the Oculus platform and in the Oculus mobile app,” Facebook said in an Oculus blog post.
In a separate statement Facebook said the system would target ads based on Facebook profile information, as well as Oculus app and advertising usage data.
Developers are to receive a share of ad revenues, which could be an incentive for them to participate in Facebook’s official app platform.
Facebook said it is also experimenting with “new ad formats that are unique to VR”.
The company’s Oculus Quest 2 currently dominates the consumer VR headset market, and is priced near the bottom of the market at £299 ($299 in the US).
The Oculus Quest 2’s low price has led some competitors to shift out of the consumer VR market.
HTC’s Vive Focus 3, at $1,300 (£940), for instance, is intended for enterprises.
The company told The Verge in May that it was difficult to compete in the consumer market because of the “artificially subsidised price points” of devices such as the Oculus Quest 2.
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