Xbox boss interested in Metaverse but ‘cautious’ about play-to-win games

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

Speaking with Bloomberg host Emily Chang on August 25, Spencer suggested that while many gamers are still unconvinced of the current concept of the Metaverse, by their definition, they’ve essentially been playing Metaverse worlds for decades:

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

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

“It doesn’t surprise me at all that players look at the Metaverse and think I don’t understand 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 a voice. conversations with people anywhere,” he said.

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

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

However, Spencer did not address more contentious topics in the Metaverse, such as the concept of owning a virtual property of the Metaverse through NFTs. Cryptocurrency advocate and billionaire investor Mark Cuban recently criticized investing in virtual property as “the dumbest of them all” due to an apparent lack of utility and scarcity.

Instead, the Xbox chief added that the commercial use of the Metaverse space has continued to spark interest from Microsoft and CEO Nadella as of late.

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

Beware of P2E

However, the Xbox boss spoke in much more tentative terms about blockchain-based P2E gaming.

While Spencer admitted that monetization in games has been around for years, he worries that games are primarily built around “menial tasks” to accumulate digital currency.

“Playing to win specifically is something I’m cautious about. Create a workforce out of players, for certain players to monetize.”

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

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However, he did not completely reject the concept of playing to win, noting that there could be some interesting use cases to come out of this area.

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