PreShow Interactive is giving gamers a new way to earn in-game currency in exchange for watching ads — a concept that’s become familiar in mobile games but hasn’t really made much headway on PCs or consoles.
The startup is led by MoviePass’ founding CEO Stacy Spikes. When I spoke to Spikes about PreShow two years ago, he was beta testing an app that provided users with free movie tickets in exchange for watching ads. But obviously, theatrical moviegoing has taken a big hit in the past year.
Spikes told me yesterday that he’d always hoped to bring the PreShow concept to four categories — theatrical movies, gaming, subscription streaming and video on demand — but the pandemic forced the startup to shift focus more quickly than expected and explore what a gaming experience might look like.
The current plan is to launch a new PreShow Interactive app this summer, where viewers can connect their in-game accounts and identify how much virtual currency they want to earn. Then they watch a package of ads and PreShow will automatically transfer the currency to their account — in other words, it’s buying the currency for them.
Users will have to download a separate app to watch the ads and get the benefits, but Spikes said this is actually better than trying to integrate advertising or branded content into the game itself, which can be a slow process for the developer and the advertiser, while also being distracting for the players. And this means PreShow Interactive should be able to support 20,000 games at launch, across PCs, consoles and virtual reality.
“We just didn’t see the purpose of spending the time on integrations when it’s not really necessary,” he added. “Our deal is only with the consumer for their time. We’re saying, ‘This is your time. It has value.’ ”
One of the key elements to Preshow’s approach is technology that can detect when the viewer is actually looking at their phone screen — the ads will stop playing if you turn away. This has been criticized as “creepy surveillance tech,” but Spikes claimed that early PreShow users have embraced it. He also argued that it’s more transparent than the data collection and targeting currently driving online advertising.
“We used to think data was the new oil, but now our feeling is that permission and engagement and attention is the new oil,” he said.
In addition to revealing its new strategy, PreShow is announcing that it has raised $3 million in seed funding led by Harlem Capital, with participation by Canaan Partners, Wavemaker Partners, Front Row Fund, ROC Fund, BK Fulton and Monroe Harris.
And to be clear, Spikes said PreShow isn’t abandoning theatrical movies. He said that the PreShow app will eventually offer both movie and gaming deals “under one roof,” but brands aren’t currently eager to advertise to moviegoers.
“We’re ready to go when the marketplace is ready to go,” he said.