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Microsoft’s Activision Buy: More Metaverse in Office & Crypto in Gaming

The metaverse gained significant attention when Microsoft announced its intention to acquire Activision Blizzard in January 2022. Surprisingly, discussions surrounding this acquisition leaned more towards business communications rather than pure gaming. Public declarations and internal document leaks suggested that the acquisition might have 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 poised to drive the growth of Microsoft’s gaming division and establish the foundational blocks for the metaverse,” the company stated early in their announcement. Further into the statement, Microsoft’s CEO, Satya Nadella, noted, “Gaming will undoubtedly play a pivotal role in shaping metaverse platforms.”

In a subsequent interview with the Financial Times, Nadella delved deeper into his perspective on the development of the metaverse.

“Quite frankly, we’re in the process of creating what I would term as ‘metaverse applications.’ These experiences span 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 recently began previews, is seen as an enhancement to its Teams business communication tool.

However, Mesh isn’t solely about work; it also incorporates gaming elements. While it promises to transform regular 2D meetings into immersive 3D environments, it also offers:

“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, participate in lighthearted icebreaker activities, and much more.”

Microsoft's Activision Buy: More Metaverse in Office & Crypto in Gaming

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 video game” and expressed his disinterest in a metaverse that merely emulates a meeting room.

Microsoft's Activision Buy: More Metaverse in Office & Crypto in Gaming

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 appears to be more positively inclined towards cryptocurrency. Rumors stemming from leaked internal documents suggest that Microsoft harbored aspirations to integrate crypto wallets within the Xbox ecosystem.

Although Spencer played down these rumors, mentioning that “a lot has evolved,” he did not outright refute any of the leaked details. If these plans for crypto integration persist, there is potential for their expansion across Microsoft’s wider gaming assets.

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