With a single announcement, Microsoft has propelled itself to the top ranks of not only the gaming industry but also metaverse, deemed as the future of online socialisation by many. It has even made its intentions clear, the $68.7 billion acquisition of Activision Blizzard will serve to be the “building blocks for the metaverse.”
Not to be fooled by this, Activision has not made any major breakthroughs in the metaverse space. What it still manages to bring to the table, is its billion-dollar franchises with about 400 million monthly active players spread across 190 countries. These will surely help Microsoft spread its wings across mobile, PC, console, and even cloud gaming.
But to understand the metaverse tangent of the acquisition, one will have to delve deeper into what Activision really offers with these titles, and more importantly, what it is capable of nurturing them into, in the near future.
Gaming and metaverse
(Image: World of Warcraft)
To think of it, metaverse is really just a concept that may hold different meanings to different people. The fundamental idea is to have people who may reside in different parts of the world, come together in a 3D virtual space to socialise. Now from this, you may envision roaming around a city in a different part of the world, watching an opera virtually, attending a team meeting as seen in sci-fi movies or quite simply, hanging out with your friends in a room.
The crux here is that you will be doing all this without ever leaving your chair.
As of today, games are the closest thing we know to this definition. Many argue that what metaverse promises, we already have in various forms of online games. Tim Sweeney, CEO of Epic Games that made Fortnite, referred to the game as a metaverse in the company’s court war against Apple last year. And possibly to every extent, he is right.
Fortnite, like many other games of its kind, is a virtual, 3D platform that allows players to come together and share experiences online. Now to someone who is not much into gaming, the perception of these experiences might be limited to running around with guns and shooting things. That, however, is far, and we mean far, from the truth.
A fading difference
Travis Scott concert in Fortnite (Image: YouTube)
Games, even some as old as a decade and more, allow people to create avatars, have social interactions online, and basically spend life in a virtual world. Often under the category of MMORPG or massively multiplayer online role-playing games, these games depict a second world where players can choose to be a digital avatar and play. You can then choose to play the main game itself, or simply explore the world doing different things.
World of Warcraft, for instance, is one of the pioneers of the segment and is one of the biggest gaming titles by Activision Blizzard. Your digital avatar can casually roam around the virtual world to go on treasure hunts, fishing and other such activities. What you can also do though, is simply make friends with others players.
This list of activities is now growing at a rapid pace, more so for games than for most metaverses. Fortnite is known to hold full-blown music concerts with world-renowned artists like Travis Scott, Ariana Grande and Marshmello already having made an appearance. Players, tuned in to their devices, can simply enjoy the artist performing live in a wide virtual space.
In all such games, players can purchase weapons, outfits, badges to mark themselves uniquely and more such items. This, also, is an intrinsic part of the metaverse, which is supposed to have its own economy and currency. The difference between a game and a metaverse then only remains to be a virtual, immersive experience.
Both Activision and Microsoft are already working on that.
Attempting the metaverse
This article is not to tell you that all of the metaverse will be a game, because that is simply not true. It is to highlight the small bridge between the two entities. Games, in most aspects, already provide what most metaverse promise to do. What they lack are some experience augmentations through maybe a virtual reality (VR) or a mixed reality headset or a device with haptic feedback, all of which take you right inside the virtual world.
Activision, with about 10,000 of its employees, has dedicated part of its workforce to the cause. The company has come up with VR experiences of some of its celebrated titles like Call of Duty. It even came up with a patent for a device called a “haptic gun.” Understandably, the device is meant to work in tandem with a VR headset and allow a close-to-real-life shooting experience to the wearer.
Microsoft itself is making strides in the space. If not for gaming, the company still has a huge use-case for the technology enabling a metaverse. To think of it, Microsoft is at the base of IT solutions in every industry. It can thus benefit from metaverses meant to teach students, train professionals like doctors and pilots, or even just conduct an occasional team meeting through Microsoft Mesh.
As for the gaming space, it is likely that Activision will continue to develop its game for several such VR experiences. Aided by the right gear from Microsoft, which already sells a variety of virtual and mixed reality headsets and accessories, these games could be Microsoft and Activision’s first entry into the metaverse. At that point maybe, Microsoft’s enormous expense will begin to make sense for its metaverse endeavours.