Xbox boss keen on Metaverse but ‘cautious’ about play-to-earn games

Phil Spencer argues that “gamers have been in the Metaverse for 30 years” as games already offer 3D shared worlds for people to communicate in.

Phil Spencer, the head of Microsoft’s gaming company Xbox is optimistic about the Metaverse but remains “cautious” about play-to-earn (P2E) crypto games due to its economic and speculative aspects.

Speaking with Bloomberg anchor Emily Chang on Aug. 25, Spencer suggested that while many gamers are not yet sold on the current concept of a Metaverse, according to his definition, they have essentially been playing in Metaverse worlds for decades:

“My view on Metaverse is that gamers have been in the Metaverse for 30 years. When you’re playing games, if you’re playing a World of Warcraft game, you’re playing in Roblox, you’re playing in a racing game where everybody’s in a shared world.”

In Spencer’s view, the Metaverse is essentially a “3D shared world” in which people can freely communicate with each other and engage in shared experiences and common purposes.

“It’s not at all surprising to me that gamers might look at Metaverse and think well I don’t really get it because we already have an avatar of myself and I can already go into a shared world and I can already sit there and have voice conversations with people anywhere,” he said.

Spencer’s sentiments echo that of Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, who after telling Bloomberg in November that people could “absolutely expect” the firm to make moves in Metaverse gaming, noted that:

“If you take Halo as a game, it is a Metaverse. Minecraft is a Metaverse, and so is Flight Sim. In some sense, they’re 2D today and the question is can you now take that to a fully 3D world, and we absolutely plan to do so.”

Spencer however did not address more contentious issues in the Metaverse, such as the concept of owning virtual Metaverse property through NFTs. Crypto proponent and billionaire investor Mark Cuban recently slammed virtual property investment as “the dumbest s— ever” due to an apparent lack of utility and scarcity.

The Xbox head instead went on to add that commercial usage of the Metaverse space has continued to pique the interest of Microsoft and CEO Nadella as of late.

“But I do think the skills that we have as game designers and game creators make a ton of sense in a lot of enterprise experiences. And this is why Satya gets excited about it,” he said.

Cautious about P2E

The Xbox head spoke in much more tentative terms over blockchain-based P2E games however.

While Spencer admitted that monetization in games has been around for years, he holds concerns about games being primarily built around “menial tasks” to accrue digital currency.

“Play-to-earn specifically is something I’m cautious about. It creates a worker force out of players, for certain players to kind of monetize.”

“Now you find games that are starting to build that into the economy of the game itself. We made some comments in Minecraft about how we view NFTs in this space because we people are doing things that we thought were exploitative in our product — we said we don’t want that,” he added.

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He didn’t completely reject the concept of play-to-earn, however, noting that there could be some interesting use cases that sprout out from this area.

“I think sometimes it’s a hammer looking for a nail when these technologies come up. But the actual human use — or player use, in our case — of these technologies, I think there could be some interesting things,” he said.

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