Tue. Oct 3rd, 2023

When it comes to the concept of a “metaverse,” Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella recently reduced it to what most of us have been thinking about it as all along: just games.

When asked about his vision for the metaverse, Nadella told the Financial Times (reprinted on Ars Technica) that Microsoft’s own proposed acquisition of Activision Blizzard for about $70 billion was a “key event” in 2021: how rival Meta (Facebook) lost $10.2 billion on virtual reality. As usual, Nadella did an impeccable job of fusing the two together.

We can look at the metaverse, for example. Defintion: What is metaverse? Nadella explained that the Metaverse is all about making games. To put it another way, “It’s about the ability to put people, places, and things into a physics engine and then having all the people, places, and things in the physics engine interact with one another.”

Avatars, holograms, and even 2D surfaces with surround sound will soon be a reality for you and me at a conference room table. What’s this? Nadella went on to say, “The place where we have been doing that for a long time… is gaming.”

Whoever spent time in the common areas on a MUD or MMORPG in the early 1990s will recognise this as a statement that is all too familiar. Although virtual reality applications like VRChat can provide a more direct connection, metaverses are nothing more than avatars in a shared world where you can communicate.

Warcraft: A New Hope

Nadella appears to understand that a metaverse is just people dressing up in virtual costumes and interacting, whether it be killing monsters or negotiating business deals..

IDG’s Leif Johnson is the author

Nadella appears to have a good grasp of this. The way he decorates his “avatar in Forza is my car,” he says, is what makes you think it’s his. “Now, we can start dreaming [that] through these metaverses: I can literally be in the game, just like I can be in a conference room with you in a meeting,” he added. The technology and the metaphor will appear in different contexts,” he says.

Microsoft Teams, the latest iteration of the company’s “metaverse” strategy laid out last fall, will use avatars as a segue, according to Nadella. Again, the surrounding context is critical: Microsoft Mesh was once hailed as the foundation of the metaverse by the software giant. The HoloLens is a mixed-reality device, and Microsoft appears to have no idea what to do with it.

Is Metaverse for Games Only?

No doubt, Microsoft’s public relations team is trying to make the Activision acquisition look good to investors while also attempting to deflect attention away from the recent Business Insider storey about Microsoft cancelling its HoloLens 3 project because of low interest. That the Activision acquisition makes sense in this new “metaverse” reality, and that, secondly, Microsoft is investing in properties like Minecraft, Forza, and World of Warcraft so that consumers can interact with a virtual world is Nadella’s message. Lastly, Nadella is implying that Microsoft can apply the same principles to the business sector, where it makes money through Microsoft 365 subscriptions and Azure cloud tie-ins. “Hybrid work” is a topic that Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella touches on during his keynote speech.

Microsoft tried a metaverse before, with Windows Mixed Reality hardware and a VR version of Windows, and where that all went, but the Financial Times didn’t ask. That Nadella does so in a way that gamers already understand does not diminish his accomplishments. A lot of it is fabrication, but it ends up in the right place.

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By Adam

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