Microsoft: Metaverse Reloaded

What is Microsoft doing in Second Life, anyway?

This was my April Fool’s Day article for 2007, which even gathered a few comments 🙂 Sorry to disappoint you, guys, but no, Microsoft is not running for the Metaverse — not yet 🙂 — Gwyn

The recent announcement of Microsoft Metaverse, due to be launched in July 2007, after the impact of the release of Sony Home — Sony’s own 3D chat built-in in its PS3 — should not have come as a big surprise. First, Microsoft is hardly a new player in virtual world environments. They used to have a Virtual Worlds research division, and their old MusicWorld environment was perhaps a preview in 2001 of what Sony BMG is going to do with Sony Home: allowing people in a 3D environment to share video and audio streaming. So, Microsoft had the skills for launching its own Metaverse back in 2001. But they didn’t. Why? Perhaps they were afraid that the market wasn’t ready in 2001; and just one year after that, while Julian Lombardi’s ViOS collapsed (and he had to co-launch OpenCroquet), Linden Lab started their own “metaverse” with user-created content.

Daniel Terdiman reported last year on C|NET that it was quite clear that Microsoft had ambitious plans of their own, even if what wasn’t clear was what they actually were doing. Sony Home’s “launch” was a bit shaky in terms of concrete answers (as can be seen on the many interviews given by Phil Harisson which can be found on YouTube). It was clear they had started this a long time ago, but what wasn’t clear was the future of Sony Home. Will it just be a place where PS3 gamers will hang around and talk about their favourite games? What about user-created content? Why are the number of simultaneous users on “apartments” (16) and “common spaces” (64) so low? How will this development be funded through a stream of revenues in the future — if at all? Sony reveals technology, but not a business plan. And in this post-bubble days, is that really enough?

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