Hate Xbox Dashboard Ads? The Man Responsible Says He's Sorry

Former Microsoft employee explains how ads first came to be on Xbox's dashboard.

Allen Murray, the Microsoft employee who largely created the technology that allows for ads on Xbox's dashboard, says he's sorry.

As Murray explains in a post to his personal blog, the idea originated with good intentions. In 2004, Murray's first job in the games industry was Program Manager on the Xbox team, where he worked on the web services layer of Xbox Live. At some point, it occurred to Murray that many users won't discover games that were hidden just several clicks down the user interface.

"I went to Larry ['Major Nelson' Hyrb'] and showed him the problem: there was no way to promote content inside the Xbox 360 itself," Murray said. "He supported me and saw the value in how he could use it as a tool to promote not only the games that were available, but also events and special community messages."

Murray said he then went to his boss (whom he doesn't name) and suggested they display "banner ads" on the dashboard that link directly to the download pages of games. His boss was very skeptical of the idea, saying that gamers will hate ads.

"It was very hard for me to convince people that this sort of advertising was good," Murray said. "In hindsight, I think it was my choice of language, using terms like ‘advertising’ and ‘banner ads’ that conveyed a tone of corporate soullessness. This was games! We were supposed to be cool and f**k the man and all that s**t."

Ultimately, with Hyrb's support, the Xbox Live Arcade team moved forward with designing the Banner Of The Day system they would use to schedule ads. Murray said it's built with a proprietary tool very similar to Flash, and had a very basic scheduling system that allowed them to set up ads weeks in advance.

"Nowadays the Xbox One UI is nearly all ‘ads’, i.e., links promoting content and apps in the Xbox ecosystem," he said. "So it’s nice to see that the idea caught on and if you hate the Mt. Dew ads, I am truly sorry."

Emanuel Maiberg is a freelance writer. You can follow him on Twitter @emanuelmaiberg and Google+.

Got a news tip or want to contact us directly? Email news@gamespot.com

Written By

Emanuel Maiberg is a freelance writer in search of the Citizen Kane of burritos.

Discussion

475 comments
Jadeblade
Jadeblade

I hate them. I payed for the console, I payed for the games, I payed for the Live service, I didn't pay for adds that weren't there in the first place. The (so far) clean UI of the PS4 is actually one of the reasons I jumped ship.

maxinemccormack
maxinemccormack

I hate them too :( In fact, I was the one among my friends who noticed the bad change first.

Mike_24_7
Mike_24_7

I notice the ads like the way I notice the shill comments

zakaweb
zakaweb

They are not a problem, I rarely even notice they are there.  It's not an issue for me.

blackbeltjones
blackbeltjones

Dont even notice the ads.... Too busy playing games...

daniel79
daniel79

This is the very reason i stopped paying for Live. I dont pay you to advertise John Lewis to me. Get stuffed.

DarkReign2022
DarkReign2022

I don't mind ads for games since it is a valid point that digital games could be easily buried and missed (I still find gems from way back in 2007/2008) and I didn't even really mind the movies since Netflix/Hulu/Amazon are a large integral part of the Console Community now, but all of the worthless ads for things like Budweiser, Domino's, Doritos, and Joining the Navy were just unnecessary. If you were a silver user, fine, deal with the ads because it didn't actually stop you from playing your games, but once you pay for gold, I think all of that shit should have gone away.


That being said, I think the Xbox One is doing a great job with its Ads so far. The pins tab is completely customizable with digital apps and games only, Home is almost entirely dedicated to your activities on the console with your friends, game list, snap tool, and the last 5 active programs on your console. Only the 3 boxes on the right are ads and it's typically dedicated to one movie, one game or update feature, and the weekly sale or free game of the month. As for store, it's pure advertisements but what else are you going to put there? That's the whole purpose of a store, so they can advertise as much as they want and even so it's almost always exclusively games they advertise on the main page.

northArrow
northArrow

In fairness, it looks like the X1's dash is a vast improvement over the pile of dung that was the 360's. 


On the 360, only the 3 icons on the far left were useful - everything else, big middle icon, bottom and tags on the right are advertisements. The bottom right is typically the "traditional" ad for Doritos, Home Depot, Honda or something, while everything else was spam highlighting crap games you had no interest in, a movie you already saw or music from an artist you've never heard of. Just plain awful


It wouldn't have been so bad if you could turn off recommendations

CraZkid37
CraZkid37

You mean the ads that give free stuff and occasionally have fun silly games to play? Yea, don't have a problem with those.

nurnberg
nurnberg

I don't have a X1 but that dashboard looks horrible.

grenadehh
grenadehh

Sorry for what.


There aren't ads.


I've literally never seen an ad, in 13 years of Xbox ownership. With or without gold.


What I have seen is promotions - new on xbox one, sales, new music in the store, new movies on the apps, etc.


Those aren't ads.


Those are in fact very helpful and often times people would never know there were ridiculous digital sales, or free games, or that movies were out on XBL, etc.

Crimson23
Crimson23

From what I got from the article is that he's sorry how the ads turned out on the 360 and that the way it is on the Xbox One is what was originally planned.

captaindrake
captaindrake

I got a soap commercial in Spanish a few months ago in my dash area. And I'm in a non Hispanic region. It was so out of place that I laughed quite hard for a while. 

GLOBALv
GLOBALv

And this is one of the many reasons I won't be buying Microsoft for a long, long time.

naughtygamer806
naughtygamer806

The way this article is written, makes it seem like the whole dashboard is littered in adds, which is not the case. On the right side of the home screen are 3 windows, which sometimes feature games with gold, new release games/movies, info about events like gamescom. 5 small windows at the bottom show your recent activities. On the left, friends/messages/chat. Largest window always displays what u are currently doing. So yeah I fail to see where all these ads they are talking about are located. Sure the store screen has adds, but it's a store!!

hehe101
hehe101

They're not exactly bad though, it's handy to know whats new etc. I don't see why people are making a big deal about it at all.

MaP_Hagmen
MaP_Hagmen

Call me crazy but the PlayStation network also has ad on it, so why is the ads really an issue?


No matter what console you have you got ads!!!!!!!!




steve_esquire
steve_esquire

The Xbox One "ads" just tell me what is being released, and that's a good thing. Why wouldn't you want to know about game sales?? Plus you don't even need to see them. You can get to anything you'd need to get to right off the main window. Not only that, but you can just do everything with the kinect. The Xbox One dashboard is much better than the 360 as far as useful "ads" go. The 360 is a digrace now.

tr4newreck
tr4newreck

there is no enterprise where a corporation will not exploit it to the extreme... its naive to think, people/corporations will make 5 billion and be satisfied with that for years to come, they always have to make more, every year, otherwise they are deemed as failing or in decline, and their market value drops.  


so exploiting comes naturally, as invention is expensive or requires a visionary individual or group of people...


and most corporate stooges are inventive in how to make money off a product/service ie. dlc, sub. fee's, exclusive rights etc.


they don't actually know how to make the next CoD or the Next Halo franchise they just know how to chop it into pieces and make the most money out of it.



charlesswann
charlesswann

No need to apologize.  Just makes the decision to stay PlayStation that much easier.

MigGui
MigGui

@straightcur he's proud that his idea promoted games that could be missed by players, potentially selling more games and making both consumer and company happy, but sorry that microsoft used his idea to sell ads to mountain dew (and probably other companies, I don't own one to know).

grenadehh
grenadehh

@nurnberg No. First of all, you can completely customize it - that was customized by an invalid and makes no sense. That isn't how the default dash looks and lord knows why they would organize theirs so horridly.


The XB1 dash is wonderful.

northArrow
northArrow

@grenadehh  "Those are in fact very helpful and often times people would never know there were ridiculous digital sales, or free games, or that movies were out on XBL, etc."


WTF do you think an ad is?

Martyr77
Martyr77

@grenadehh  You know ads are promotional material right? Nevermind I forgot who I was talking to......

allever
allever

@grenadehh  You don't "see" it because you're wearing tinted glasses.

nl_skipper
nl_skipper

@grenadehh You obviously have a selective memory when it comes to Xbox Live Ads...


And lol at a "promotion" being appreciably different from advertising... when you're seeing such product placement being spammed at you, especially on a subscription service, it's ridiculous whatever you call it. 

VenkmanPHD
VenkmanPHD

@grenadehh I live in the US.

I constantly see ads for movies, music, events, and other crap that doesn't involve strictly video games.

It's BS.

0m39AX
0m39AX

@grenadehh Well, the brazilian dashboard HAS ads. For automobiles, for movies that are currently in theaters - but not on Xbox Movie, etc. They aren't much, but here they do exist.

allever
allever

@GLOBALv  There's no reason to own an Xbox One.  Their games are coming to the PC too.

VenkmanPHD
VenkmanPHD

@naughtygamer806 No, every other tile (or 2) is an ad.

an ad for a lady gaga album
an ad for a new movie
an ad for a youtube video
an ad for old spice
an ad for verizon
an ad for a car.
and yes, an ad for Mountain Dew!

There are so many ads that fly across my dashboard it's ridiculous.

And just to be ABSOLUTELY CLEAR.

Ads for anything on my game console that are NOT about video games I can play on that console are ridiculous, unnecessary and unwelcome.

VenkmanPHD
VenkmanPHD

@hehe101 because we don't give a F about the NEW gaga album, or the NEW Toyota, or the NEW old spice.

Unless it's a game for X1, it doesn't belong on my dashboard.

grbolivar
grbolivar

@MaP_Hagmen The are NO ads on the main interface/UI of the PS3 and PS4, of course, there are promotional ads INSIDE the PSN Store, but that's logical, its the store, there has to be promotions there, but the main UI does not bombard you with ads about music, movies and who knows what else...

VenkmanPHD
VenkmanPHD

@steve_esquire No, they tell you about old spice, and verizon, and mountain dew and other random bullcrap as well.

if it was just about games that were new no one would care.

grenadehh
grenadehh

@tr4newreck They do kind of have huge operating expenses seeing as they run the world.

Rakou
Rakou

@grenadehh "you can completely customize it"


So can you remove the ads?

VenkmanPHD
VenkmanPHD

@grenadehh How in the F do you customize it? 'cause what they show up there is the same one I got when I turned on my system.

That said, screw the X1 dashboard. OMG, it's so hideous, and the stupid tiles that I don't even want or even remotely give a crap about.

The PS4 one isn't any better though. They both are horrible.

allever
allever

@grenadehh  Where's your "wonderful" dashboard?  Let's see how clean it is.. Otherwise shut your mouth.  Darn fanboy.

nl_skipper
nl_skipper

@VenkmanPHD  Yep, that's what I remember.  I got rid of my Xbox360 largely due to the excessive ads when I was already paying for a subscription service.  Really is a joke that some  people act like there are none... I've seen my friends Xbox One and things haven't changed.

VenkmanPHD
VenkmanPHD

@grbolivar @MaP_Hagmen MOST IMPORTANTLY, none of the ads WITHIN the playstation network, are for random nonsense like old spice, verizon mobile, mountain dew, toyata etc.

DeadlySinz86
DeadlySinz86

@VenkmanPHD I believe it's through My Profile. You can customize the button colors and Pin Stuff to your dashboard (I do this for Digital Games personally). 

dexter-404
dexter-404

@allever PS4 fanboy i have the PS4 dashboard it sucks it's annoying to use

VenkmanPHD
VenkmanPHD

@DeadlySinz86 @VenkmanPHD well, yeah I put my digital games on my pin list...

I'd hardly call that and color customization though. Your whole home screen still looks exactly like the picture above.

All the pin does is add a new page on the left.

allever
allever

@dexter-404 @allever  Huh? You made no sense.  At least pretend you know what you're talking about.  Try again.