Oh No, Xbox CEO Phil Spencer Might Give Gaming NFTs A Chance According To This Interview
We'll focus on the part that seems a little short towards the end of the interview. At about 19 minutes and 22 seconds in Emily asks about crypto. She specifically mentions that play-to-earn is "all the rage right now." Spencer remarks that play-to-earn is something he is cautious about but points out that historically it technically has existed. For example, in the past MMOs would have gold farmers, who would just regularly do menial tasks to earn gold and then sell it for real money out in the real world allowing for the rich players to not have to earn that currency themselves. This behavior, in those games, was almost always looked down upon.
The trend now, however, is that this is increasingly incorporated as a core functionality of game economies. It's become so commonplace that Microsoft had to step in and block the use of NFTs and blockchain technology on Minecraft servers because they felt that certain methods of use were exploitive. This does not mean that Microsoft is completely against the idea, though. Despite Spencer feeling that something like NFTs is a "hammer looking for a nail when these technologies come up," he goes on to say, "but the actual human use, or player use in our case, of these technologies I think there could be some interesting things." Implying that it's not a broad ban-hammer on the use of NFTs in gaming. If Microsoft does allow the use of NFTs on its platform we sure hope that it does not have the same massive 47% cut that Meta takes on its Metaverse NFTs.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II Screen Capture
Speaking of Minecraft, a major portion of the conversation between Chang and Spencer was related to cross-platform play and releases. When Spencer took over the gaming section of Microsoft, it wasn't long before it had the opportunity to acquire Mojang and Minecraft with it. This helped create a realization for Spencer, and the rest of Microsoft, that a singular platform focus might not be a good idea. Minecraft is still extremely popular today where it is available on almost all mobile platforms, PC, Mac, and all consoles. This also has helped drive some baffling sales numbers, enough that Microsoft felt a $2.5 Billion purchase was worthwhile. The studio only had the Java edition of the game at the time.
The Minecraft acquisition also taught Microsoft that per-platform device sales are not the key metric to monitor, but per-user sales numbers. If you don't limit your platforms, you can vastly increase your available market. This is quite contradictory to the way Microsoft has been behaving in its acquisitions lately, especially when you consider Starfield will be absent from all of Sony's platforms.
One of the biggest parts of the interview mentions Microsoft's acquisition of Activision-Blizzard, which as of this writing is still in regulatory talks. Chang mentions that some parts of Activision-Blizzard are unionizing, such as Raven Software, and says that Microsoft has committed to recognizing those unions. This has become a point of contention in the game development space. Many developers are concerned about unrealistic time crunches, unfair hours, poor wages, and even allegations of sexual harassment. Spencer points out that Microsoft wants to provide an overall culture where employees feel that their need to feel safe and be heard, as well as compensated fairly, is provided for.
The whole interview is quite fascinating and has a lot more details than we covered here, so take an opportunity to go check it out.