Phil Spencer: “Metaverse is a Poorly Built Video Game”
The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) Tech Live (Conference) 2022 saw the participation of eminent personalities from the tech and entertainment industry between 24th October and 26th October. Most of them were asked to describe the metaverse in just one line and their answers elicited mixed reactions. Comparisons were drawn between the metaverse and traditional video gaming by the "metaverse skeptics."
In reponse, Microsoft Gaming CEO and Head of XBOX Phil Spencer called the metaverse a “poorly built video game," and added, “building a metaverse that’s like a living room is not how I want to spend my time.”
According to the metaverse skeptics, the need for metaverse could be too early for this generation. Concurring, Bob Chapek, CEO of Walt Disney, opined that the metaverse is meant for “the next generation storytelling.”
Drawing comparisons between the metaverse and traditional games
One of the most interesting discussions that took place at the conference was the dynamics between gaming and the metaverse. In a video posted by the WSJ, event host Zoe Thomas asked if the metaverse was meant for gamers given that interactions happen online and also because of the inclusion of different characters. Answering this question, Improbable’s CEO Herman Narula clearly stated that the metaverse is not meant for gamers.
“I don’t think it is. Video games already work well. Video Games are great closed systems of value. If you enjoy Call of Duty or World of Warcraft, they are going to keep on being fun for years to come. The metaverse is the idea, at least in my view, that you can start connecting these experiences together and that’s a lot less interesting to game companies than it is to say sports leagues or fashion brands," added Narula.
Similarly, Phil Spencer also compared the relevance of metaverse with video games. Praising video games, he stated that they brought people together “in 3D spaces to go and save the world from invading aliens or conquer the castle,” and reinstated that he does not want to spend time building a metaverse that looks like a living room.
In contrast to the ‘skeptics’, Activate CEO Michael J Wolfe believed that the metaverse would lead to a technology paradigm. He said that games are “proto metaverse” and showed the example of the upcoming Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, a game where the developers managed to create a digital twin of Amsterdam.
Is Augmented Reality here to stay?
At the WSJ Tech Live conference 2022, Snap’s Co-Founder and CEO Evan Spiegel said, “There’s one group who likes to stay in a computer and there’s a group you know like us that are really focused on augmented reality which is really about harnessing the power of computing while getting it out of the way.” He added that Augmented Reality (AR) “does away with the friction of enjoying the world” which is contrary to what Virtual Reality (VR) offers.
In another video posted by WSJ, one of its correspondents can be seen spending a day in the metaverse using an oculus. She said she sees potential in the metaverse despite it being in its early days.
Horizon Worlds: A problem to Meta’s VR vision
Palmer Lucky, the founder of Andruil Industries and the creator of Oculus, when asked about the viability of Horizon Worlds stated, “Mark Zuckerberg is the No. 1 VR fan in the entire world. He is putting more money and more time into it than anyone has ever done in history.” He then added that Horizon Worlds is “not fun, it is not good,” talking about whether it is worthwhile, and called it a "project car."
Notably, in August, Mark Zuckerberg’s selfie in Horizon Worlds with the digital versions of France’s Eiffel Tower and Spain’s La Sagrada Familia faced a lot of criticism due to the use of ‘low’ quality graphics. It was also compared to the video games that are in the market currently.
The insights brought by these tech moguls could perhaps be true. But one cannot deny the immense growth and investments that the metaverse or the VR space has garnered over time. Only time will tell if the metaverse will be attractive enough to bring more people into immersive reality and eventually replace traditional games.