Metaverse of Microsoft, Meta, and All the Madness You Need To Know

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The next big thing and successor to the mobile internet! Metaverse is being called many such things. And everything from Facebook changing its branding to Meta and Microsoft’s $68.7 billion acquisition of Activision Blizzard is being tagged a Metaverse play. This purchase, by the way, is not just the biggest such deal for the Redmond-based company, but also the biggest in the gaming industry. And it makes Microsoft the 3rd largest gaming company in terms of revenue. So, when it is tagged as a Metaverse push, one must wonder, but why?

Well, to understand this, we need to first know what Metaverse is? Let’s start there.

What is Metaverse?

Metaverse is a portmanteau of two words — Meta (meaning beyond) and Universe.

The Oxford definition reads Metaverse is “a virtual-reality space in which users can interact with a computer-generated environment and other users”.

It was first coined in Neal Stephenson’s 1992 Sci-Fi novel Snow Crash in which the characters escape from the story’s dystopian reality into a better digital world. But this concept has been part of fictional literature in other novellas much before and after. It would go by other names and use cases. Take the example of Tron Legacy or Ready Player One which have topics or themes loosely based on Metaverse.

Now, in 2022, the underpinning technologies have improved a lot that much of that fictional stuff looks feasible today. Even if VR gizmos had some amount of hype in the 90s and aughts, the Quest headsets available these days are much more useable. Moreover, the pandemic has transformed our relationship with the internet and the mediums we consume it on. So, as Metaverse evangelists want, we are getting closer to a space where the physical and virtual world converges.

From traditional media to the so-called social media and now to the metaverse. If Web 2.0 has been the backbone of the social media decades, the forthcoming metaverse age would be greatly relying on Web 3.0. That means you would be wearing AR/VR/MR glasses/headsets, and entering a 3D immersive virtual world. Here, you would be playing, partying, working, socializing, living along with the digital alter-egos of other people. You could be a doctor remotely visiting patients or an engineer offering remote assistance in a manufacturing line. You could create/customize your online persona, buy real estate, and do things you may or may not have done in the actual world. You will also be investing and trading NFTs with cryptocurrencies, doing business in decentralized apps (dApps), decentralized organizations (DAOs), and other such blockchain-based systems.

Even those who don’t care or are uninitiated about those esoteric things might have already entered metaverse through games like Minecraft, Second Life, Sims, Roblox, and Fortnite. Granted they are very watered down and flat in nature. But the point is that you have been spending a digital life discrete from your real life. Thus IRL too, you have experienced Metaverse albeit not in its loftier and fancier form.

Well, not just you and I, but many play these games and spend a significant portion of their lives in these virtual worlds. For instance, 50 million people play Roblox per day, and on average spend two hours 36 minutes of their day. And it’s not only gaming. In 2020 Lil Nas X’s concert held within Roblox was attended 33 million times. Similarly, Travis Scott’s Astronomical concert in Fortnite was participated by over 12.3 million concurrent players. You get the idea.

This also kinda alludes to the reason behind Microsoft’s big bet on Activision. So, now let’s take a look at how this and the other brands are embracing Metaverse.

Microsoft’s Metaverse: The Competitive Edge

Microsoft believes players (gamers) and creators are at the center of Metaverse. So they are spending to attract these groups of people into their club. To gain traction in Metaverse, that is.

Differently put, here’s how the Activision acquisition benefits Microsoft:

  • Microsoft’s Game Pass has 25 million subscribers while Activision’s Call of Duty game has 100 million player base. That’s just one game. The purchase also brings other popular titles like “Warcraft,” “Diablo,” “Overwatch,” “Candy Crush,” “Call Of Duty: Infinite Warfare Jackal Assault VR” to its catalog.
  • It already owns games like Minecraft, Halo, Flight Sim, Forza, Bethesda titles, etc. Minecraft, for instance is so famous that its videos on YouTube broke records of 1 trillion views recently. Nadella also claims they have plans “to take the present 2D worlds of Flight Sim, Minecraft and Halo Infinite to a full 3D world”.
  • So, now it has these new IPs. It can lock-in the games to its Xbox platform and its game library would be a moat against its rivals like Sony PlayStation, Google Stadia, and Amazon Luna.
  • In the long run if and when cloud gaming discounts the need of a console, Microsoft’s content roster would prove more lucrative. Even in the short run, when it owns the entire ecosystem, it can save on platform fees, commissions and other costs.
  • Speaking of cloud, it can draw more users into its Azure Cloud service. This includes both consumers and its own adopted entities like Activision.
  • Gaming is the most dynamic and exciting category in entertainment across all platforms today and will play a key role in the development of metaverse platforms,” says Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella on this deal announcement.

So now Microsoft has games, Xbox console, Azure Cloud service, Hololens Mixed Reality headsets, AltspaceVR, and Mesh (3D digital avatar making). The latter is expected to be part of Microsoft Teams by the first half of 2022. That and MS Office would prove to be the company’s resources for enterprise metaverse. And like computers and high-level technologies of this kind, the adoption could begin from work but eventually permeate into personal lives.

Meanwhile, here’s where its competitors are on the Metaverse:

Microsoft’s Competitors on Metaverse

Face…err… Meta is Microsoft’s most obvious competition in this space. Meta is moving beyond being a social media company into its broader ambition of metaverse. It already owns Reality Labs (previously Oculus or Facebook Reality Labs) which develops the Quest-line of VR headsets, and other computing devices. The company is also on a buying spree and its recent purchases include Buy Within (the developer of the Supernatural workout app), Unit 2 Games, Bigbox VR, and Downpour Interactive. It is also working on Horizon Workrooms for 3D immersive virtual meets. It is also reportedly locking in patents for human-monitoring gadgets and technologies.

However, all are not bullish.

Apple, which is known to be working on AR/MR headsets (ostensibly slated for 2023), deems Metaverse off-limits for its future plans, tells Bloomberg reporter Mark Gurman.

Then there is Epic Games (Fortnite) CEO Tim Sweeney who remarks, “Over the coming decades, the metaverse has the potential to become a multitrillion-dollar part of the world economy, open to all companies across the world as equals. Apple and Google policies ban other companies from creating the metaverse so they can dominate it themselves and tax it. We must not allow these two companies.”

Elon Musk also shares a dismissive opinion of Metaverse. In a 2021 interview, he said “I don’t see someone strapping a frigging screen to their face all day and not wanting to ever leave. That seems — no way. I currently am unable to see a compelling metaverse situation.”

That brings us to:

Metaverse Concerns

As Tim Sweeney fears, the Big Tech monopoly is an obvious concern.

Then some like Elon Musk are bearish of the technological prospects. There is still plenty of infrastructural hurdles that would prevent you from having a seamless or immersive experience. And it would take a lot of time, innovative efforts, and money to address them.

Even as they are solved, content safety, security, and moderation would be one heck of a task. These brands will have to police and fend off social evils like racism, sexism, etc.

Microsoft Mesh for Teams

However, in time, things should shake out to an acceptable extent. As Zeus Kerravala, principal analyst with ZK Research, told MarketWatch, “It’s like anything in tech: Everyone defines an emerging market that best suits their strengths and needs. Whoever wins out invariably turns that experience into their walled garden.” We get that businesses run with commercial intent, but regulatory bodies should keep a check. They should ensure Metaverse players are governed by some standards and protocols.

Meta and Microsoft aim for an open and interoperable Metaverse. The services must be device agnostic, ubiquitous, and more importantly accessible to the masses. If that happens, these brands can capitalize on a billion or even trillion-dollar addressable market that is expected to be an $800 billion market by 2024 (Bloomberg Intelligence).

So you are likely to see more brands across the board hop the Multiverse bandwagon and this word being thrown around by the media. The reality may take some time, even decades to match the hype. But the tech would advance, and as always, you would be having the option to live the reality you choose.

Vasan G.S.Vasan G.S.
An inquisitive mind who spends a big chunk of the day keenly tracking every emerging detail and is responsible for quickly passing on important developments to Smartprix followers. He loves to stay in his bubble scripting his destiny involving amazing technology and people with good character, passion, and brilliance.

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