Phil Spencer, CEO of Microsoft Gaming and the Xbox brand, said in a recent interview that Meta’s metaverse is like a “poorly built video game”. It’s hard to imagine how that could be when the metaverse doesn’t exist yet. While praising video games for their abilities to bring people together in new and exciting experiences, he knocked Horizon Worlds down a peg, saying “building a metaverse that’s like a meeting room is not how I want to spend my time.”
The Metaverse? A metaverse?
You’ll often see people use these terms interchangeably. They describe new, overhyped virtual worlds and virtual platforms like Decentraland as metaverses. Some even describe Roblox or Second Life as metaverses. There’s nothing wrong with this per se, especially if it’s used to describe a virtual world or platform that uses decentralized technology. However, when you start to conflate closed-loop virtual worlds with the next generation of the internet (the metaverse), it can cause confusion—and tech CEOs like Phil Spencer clearly aren’t immune to this.
While there’s no doubt that platforms like Meta’s Horizon Worlds are worse than underwhelming—boring, watered down video game worlds bringing no further value than the community that uses it—It might not even be fair to call them metaverses. What about them is so “metaverse”?
Spencer is right to be unimpressed with Meta’s Horizon Worlds: “we’ve been putting people together in 3D spaces to go and save the world from invading aliens or conquer the castle” for decades now—the tech giants VR world does nothing new. In fact, VR Chat, a VR virtual world platform created in 2014—yes, 8 years ago—puts Horizon Worlds to shame.
And this is line with recent news that Meta has lost $700 billion in value, which Wall Street is referring to as a ‘train wreck’ —its shares are down two thirds from the same time last year, with the colossal losses slowly adding up, and the public perception of Horizon Worlds quickly withering and waning means the tech company might not be a giant for much longer.
Besides Spencer, other tech leaders and CEOs have taken stabs at Meta’s founder Zuckerberg. Recently the founder of the Oculus Rift, Palmer Luckey, likened Mark Zuckerberg's work on the virtual platform to a personal project car: It will cost him a fortune, but might mean more to him than others around. Meta’s shift from Facebook to metaverse-maximalists has turned heads, and all for the wrong reasons. For a multibillion dollar traded company, pivoting on a dime seemed like a poor strategic decision—and the consequences reflect this appearance. If you're a startup just getting into a new field, a swift strategic shift makes sense. But Meta is no startup.