The news of Microsoft buying Activision Blizzard was a games industry moment so significant, media outlets the world over were discussing it. Gamers excitedly speculated over what it could mean for their favorite IPs (myself very much included here) and business folk pulled apart whether or not it is a wise investment.
There is a more relevant strand to this news for us blockchain gamers and discussion of it started immediately, but now the dust has settled, it’s worth a reasoned look. Is Microsoft buying Activision Blizzard for $69 billion the biggest metaverse play we have seen so far?
Microsoft’s $69 Billion Move for the Metaverse
The focus for many in this gargantuan monopoly-move by Microsoft has been the IPs that come with it; the likes of World of Warcraft, Call of Duty, and Diablo, to name just a few. However, comments from senior figures at Microsoft suggest that the long-term play is for the metaverse.
“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.” — Satya Nadella, Microsoft CEO
We have seen giants in the gaming industry nod at the metaverse, from Ubisoft to Square Enix, but this could be something else entirely. There’s no getting away from the fact that the IPs aboard the ship sailing into Microsoft’s harbor are powerhouses in their own right, valuable and important. But, we must also remember that these IPs will be a part of the metaverse too. In fact, monopolization of leading gaming IPs is arguably the biggest play for the metaverse one can make.
When I describe what a metaverse might mean for gamers, I often use examples of RIOT’s ecosystem. Imagine your knife model and skin in Valorant could be equipped to champions in League of Legends and then moved over to their upcoming MMORPG, and vice versa. It’s the simplest example, but it’s one that shows both ownership and application of NFTs in their purest form.
The more games Microsoft owns, the more nodes in the gaming network there are. Dumping hours into a game can often tie you to that game in unusual ways, like a sunk cost fallacy; you unlocked so many things on that account, you don’t want to abandon it. NFTs solve that problem to a degree — you can pick up your possessions and take them with you — but that is contingent on either inter-ecosystem compatibility (unlikely short-term) or a vast library of games in that publisher’s arsenal.
There is little doubt that Microsoft has made this milestone acquisition with the metaverse in mind. How large a factor it was, is hard to say. I try to keep my bias in check (though Nadella’s words are difficult to misconstrue), and the most obvious way would be to quote Phil Spencer, Head of Gaming at Microsoft’s Xbox division:
“What I’d say today on NFT, all up, is I think there’s a lot of speculation and experimentation that’s happening, and that some of the creative that I see today feels more exploitive than about entertainment.” — Phil Spencer, Microsoft Xbox Head of Gaming
I don’t necessarily disagree with him, but it does walk a more familiar mainstream line of caution when it comes to blockchain technology.
Whatever the case may be, it is worth planting a flag in Microsoft’s purchase of Activision Blizzard. It will undoubtedly be impactful in the games industry, but it could end up being a long-term catalyst in the race for the metaverse too.