The metaverse: it's bullshit. But that's not stopping all sorts of big players from betting the virtual farm on it. Tim Sweeney is, as far as we can tell, a true believer, and Facebook recently renamed itself to Meta, a deep commitment intended to reflect the growing influence of the metaverse concept on its products. Now Microsoft has shared more about its own plans for the metaverse, which are heavily focused on commercial applications but also includes gaming.
"Whenever I think about the metaverse, it sort of comes down to bringing the real world people, places, and things to the digital world," Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said in an interview with Bloomberg.
"It's all about creating more presence, more human connection, giving all the options for people to be able to participate in the communities that they're most interested in."
Microsoft's Ignite presentation, which took place earlier today, introduced two new features aimed at delivering more metaversal interactions in the business world: Mesh for Microsoft's Teams communication platform, which uses mixed-reality applications to enable "presence and shared experiences" from remote locations, and Dynamics Connected Spaces, which as far as I can tell is aimed more directly at retail-level shopping and supply.
It's nebulous and maybe even a little silly-sounding, and Nadella acknowledged that this kind of technology still seems far-fetched at the consumer level. "This pandemic, if anything, has made I would say the commercial-use cases much more mainstream, even though sometimes the consumer stuff feels like science fiction," he said.
But while the Ignite presentation was focused on commercial applications, Nadella said Microsoft has metaverse ambitions for its games division too—which in some ways is already kind of metaversey.
"You absolutely can expect us to do things in gaming," Nadella said. "You could even think about—if you take Halo as a game, it is a metaverse. Minecraft is a metaverse. And so is Flight Sim. So in some sense, they're 2D today, and the question is can you now take that to a full 3D world? We absolutely plan to do so."
It's hard to imagine how that will work, especially with early attempts at metaversification like Minecraft Earth failing to catch fire, but gaming is definitely a big opportunity space: Microsoft is one of three major console manufacturers globally, and for all that we like to make fun of the Microsoft Store it's also a big player in PC gaming. For now, though, enterprise applications are the priority: Natella said the focus right now is on nailing down the "intrinsics" of Mesh and Dynamics Connected Spaces, and building them into its Azure platform service.