Video games can be great place to escape the drudgery of the real world. No need to think about tax rates, paying utility bills or contractor rates when you're in a Halo multiplayer match. But the dirtiest competition in the real world—jockeying for elected office—might be landing up on an Xbox near you, if Microsoft can get political ads running on their platforms.
While ads for body spray, foodstuffs and movies are all too common on an Xbox dashboard, pitches for people running for elected office are still relatively rare in video games, with then-candidate Barack Obama's 2008 in-game ad in Burnout Paradise as a notable watershed moment. The Wall Street Journal reports that Microsoft is trying to change that. They're currently trying to bend the ears of political operators at the annual CPAC conservative conference:
The ads, which would appear on the Xbox Live dashboard and other Microsoft products, combine Microsoft user IDs and other public data to build a profile of Xbox users. Campaigns can then blast ads to selected demographic categories, or to specific congressional districts. And if the campaign brings its own list of voter e-mail addresses, Microsoft can match the additional data with individual customer accounts for even more accurate voter targeting.
This is still in the embryonic stages, though, and it remains to be seen if any such advertising campaigns would significantly engage gamers to get out the vote. One also has to wonder if the next step up from this is custom-built political advergames where opponents would trash each other.