Microsoft CEO Claims Activision Blizzard Deal Helps Them Build The Metaverse Internet

ar hololens
It seems unlikely that anyone would be unclear on why Microsoft decided to purchase Activision-Blizzard. The massive gaming megacorporation has more hit franchises that are household names than you can count your hands, and Microsoft is obviously intent on cashing in on the explosive gaming market even more. If you asked this writer why Microsoft elected to acquire the collective of Call of Duty and Warcraft, the word "metaverse" wouldn't even come in until we were on the second page, if at all. That's despite Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella making sure to mention the buzzword in the company's original announcement.

Yet, the nebulous "metaverse" concept is supposedly one of the biggest driving factors behind the decision, according to Nadella. He reaffirmed the idea in a (paywalled) interview with the Financial Times. He says that the "metaverse is essentially about creating games," and goes on to explain that the practical implementation of the "metaverse" is basically the same process as building a video game.

That's fair enough, but Microsoft already owns numerous game studios that have their own toolchains and systems in place for building online games. Presumably one or more of those could be enlisted to craft this virtual future; why snag Acti-Bliz? Surely it's because of the vast IP portfolio that Activision-Blizzard owns collectively, or because Microsoft wants to enhance Game Pass by adding those titles to the service. Maybe just the simple desire to add its profits to Microsoft's own?

mesh for teams news
A theoretical future UI for Teams, focusing on avatars instead of video feeds.

Nah, it's the metaverse, says Nadella. The interviewer attempted to steer the conversation toward what Microsoft will be doing with all this IP, but Nadella was much more interested in talking about how "being great at game building gives [Microsoft] the permission to build this next platform, which is essentially the next Internet." Nevermind that the "next Internet" will have to run on the current Internet, there are all kinds of problems with this "might makes right"-style idea of Nadella's.

This metaverse fervor is also strange in light of the fact that Microsoft has supposedly killed off its third-generation Hololens mixed-reality headset. Microsoft denies that rumor, of course, but it's hard to ignore the company's employees fleeing that division like a sinking ship. Microsoft is historically a software company and it has a history of killing off under-performing hardware projects, so it wouldn't surprise us if Hololens went the way of Zune.

Nadella was asked if he was concerned about government bodies interfering in the purchase, but he was immediately dismissive. Despite that Microsoft is about to become the largest American game publisher, and the third-largest game company in the world, Nadella notes that the acquisition only puts Microsoft in the "low teens," in terms of market share. It will be interesting to see if that's enough to convince regulators to keep their noses out of the purchase.