The buzz surrounding the metaverse became more pronounced when Microsoft announced its intention to acquire Activision Blizzard in January 2022. The main focus of this discussion seemed to lean more towards business communications rather than pure gaming. Surprisingly, if one were to follow public declarations and internal document leaks, the acquisition might hold more implications for the realm of cryptocurrency than for the metaverse itself.
When Microsoft made its intentions clear about the Activision deal in January 2022, the metaverse was prominently featured.
“This acquisition is set to propel the growth of Microsoft’s gaming division and lay the foundational blocks for the metaverse,” the company mentioned early on in their announcement. Further into the statement, Microsoft’s CEO, Satya Nadella, noted, “Gaming will undeniably have a pivotal role in shaping metaverse platforms.”
A subsequent interview with the Financial Times saw Nadella delve deeper into his perspective on the development of the metaverse.
“Quite frankly, we’re in the process of creating what I’d term as ‘metaverse applications.’ These experiences span across business tools, productivity software, meetings, and even games, all integrated on a unified platform.”
Nadella’s focus on the workplace is revealing. He mentioned four distinct areas but grouped them as “all three,” seemingly combining “meetings and games” into one category. Microsoft’s foray into the metaverse, known as Mesh, which started its previews recently, is seen as an enhancement to its Teams business communication tool.
But Mesh isn’t just about work; it has a gaming element as well. While it promises to take your regular 2D meetings and elevate them to a 3D immersive environment, it also adds:
“Engage in embedded interactive games designed for team bonding within these immersive environments. As an introduction, there are specific zones where you can toast marshmallows, toss beanbags, engage in light-hearted icebreaker activities, and much more.”
During the initial announcement and finalization of the deal with Microsoft Gaming on October 13, the metaverse was notably absent from the conversation. Phil Spencer, the CEO of Microsoft Gaming, later in 2022 expressed a subdued excitement for the concept.
In a Bloomberg interview in August, Spencer pondered the true definition of the metaverse. “In my perspective, gamers have existed within the metaverse for the past three decades,” he commented. He remained mostly silent about the Web3 version of the metaverse, only mentioning a slight apprehension regarding the play-to-earn model. He was also heard referring to the metaverse as “a subpar videogame” and expressed his disinterest in a metaverse that merely emulates a meeting room.
On the other hand, Bobby Kotick, CEO of Activision, holds a vibrant vision for the metaverse. In 2021, he remarked, “We’re progressing towards the realization of the pioneering vision presented by Neil Stephenson in ‘Snow Crash’ or the depiction in Ernest Cline’s ‘Ready Player One’.”
When the Activision acquisition news broke, both Kotick and Spencer were interviewed together on CNBC. Kotick emphasized, “We’re beginning to discern the potential shape of the metaverse. In this journey towards its realization, the need for diverse resources and expertise became evident.” Spencer, however, remained silent on the topic.
Kotick has committed to staying with Activision until the year’s conclusion.
Interestingly, Spencer seems more positively inclined towards cryptocurrency. Rumors from leaked internal documents suggest that Microsoft had aspirations to embed crypto wallets within the Xbox ecosystem.
While Spencer played down these rumors, stating that “a lot has evolved,” he didn’t refute any of the leaked details. If these crypto integration plans remain on track, there’s potential for their expansion across Microsoft’s broader gaming assets.