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.

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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."

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