Virtual reality: funding models and VR in-game advertising

What has virtual reality got to do with TheInternetWorks? Simple: in-game advertising within the Red Bull Air Race game is a development that enables it to be the first ever AAA-rated VR game to be offered free

October 2016 is a big month for virtual reality, or VR, as it is when the world’s biggest and most successful games console maker, Sony, follows market pioneer Oculus Rift and rival HTC Vive and launches its PlayStation VR headset.

The addition of Sony, who have sold around 325 million of their various PlayStation consoles over the years, into the VR mix will certainly bring possibly millions of new gamers into the VR market – especially as the headset is designed to be used with the PS4 console, of which there are around 43 millions in homes around the globe. Facebook-owned Oculus also has a pipeline of developments that will seriously swell its user numbers in coming months and years, including a completely wireless Oculus Rift headset and alterations to allow a wider base of PC users to operate VR headsets. Further forward, Xbox Project Scorpio is designed to be Microsoft’s VR-enabling console, while Apple has filed patents, hired VR experts and seen the rumours set off like wildfire.

Virtual reality is not only a hot new buzzword in gaming but Hollywood is also channeling millions into exploring the potential for marketing and eventually full feature films and some police forces are even using VR to catch war criminals. At the moment, in somewhat of a crossover between the two, there are Batman, Suicide Squad and – yes! – Star Wars VR experiences available, for instance.

But with the cost of most of these big-name VR games having come in for some criticism, the fact that Red Bull Air Race – The Game is being offered as a free-to-play and download AAA-rated game is kind of a big deal. Triple-A rated games are classified as such because of their high development budgets and expectation that they will be among the year’s bestsellers – and in this case publishers Wingracers Sports Games has worked with award-winning developer Slightly Mad Studios, the team behind the hit ‘Project CARS’ driving simulation.

As well as being available as a standard 2D PC game, this is the first ever flight game with full native support for VR, initially for Oculus Rift with the possibility of HTC Vive in future. All levels of gamer can play alone in Official World Championship mode, or in versus mode play mates or compete against each other or the whole world online – which makes the game extremely likely to tap into the fast-growing world of eSports. In the Air Race game you fly courses set within amazingly realistic backdrops of the real Red Bull Air Race World Championships, such as around Las Vegas, Ascot Racecourse, the Red Bull Ring and Tokyo Bay – as well as a few extras.

The VR experience is a big step up into an immersive 360-degree world with a genuinely breath-taking sense of realism. Many of gamers in the TIW offices have had a go on the game and the realism is something none of us have ever seen in a game before. There is support for all player levels with difficulty and matchmaking for versus games, with usability from keyboards, controllers right up to full flight simulator set ups.

The Game was launched at Gamescom in Cologne in August and, with the game still in open beta, the full release is coming soon. (The open beta is available at:

How is the game free to play?

The Red Bull Air Race game is the first ever AAA-rated release to be offered free to play and download. This is essentially because it is being funded by companies who want to reach and interact with PC gamers, while they are in-game.

For users this is relatively unobtrusive on gameplay: as will be familiar to fans of Formula 1 racing in real life and spin-off simulation games, the planes and pilots can be draped in sponsor logos, with sponsorship also in hangars and around the tracks.

For brands this is a unique and exciting way of reaching individuals. The game, which is 100% ad-block free, offers all the benefits and emotion of a physical sponsorship combined with the wide reach and some of the measurability of digital metrics. The range of advertising options is all woven into the game, from trackside advertising, branded hot-air balloons and timekeeper sponsorship all the way to fine details like branded water cups and even the watch on your pilot’s wrist.

Want to know more? Give us a call.


Written by

TIW's head of content. He writes things, mostly content for clients but also TIW blogs. Client content ranges from bespoke web copywriting to business and sports journalism for the likes of ITV, Digital Look, Reuters and the Olympic News Agency.

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