It looks like Microsoft is working on adding the ability to feature in-game ads within free-to-play games on Xbox consoles. Allowing companies to profit from their work while likely also sharing some of those proceeds with Microsoft as well (after all, they are the ones working on the system to make it all possible).
The new feature will be rolling out sometime later in the year and will take in-games ads beyond simply having an annoying banner running across the screen. Instead, it will be in the form of product placement in ways, allowing developers to integrate the ads into game environments. Which is at least better than having something annoying flashing on your screen at all times like mobile games can do.
Instead, you could be driving along to find a digital billboard somewhere that is playing an add for a real company and/or product. Not even realizing that this is an in-game advertisement that can change depending on who the developer has sold the ad space to at any given time.
As long as developers aren’t able to go hog crazy by plastering them all over the place, this actually isn’t a bad idea and would be a great source of income for some of these companies. Also, as long as paid games don’t do it as well as none of us want to pay to be advertised to (hence the popular push to get away from Cable TV by so many).
This may result in higher quality free-to-play titles down the road if it proves it be profitable for developers.