Facebook’s name change to Meta Platforms was supposed to signify a shift in the company’s future. The Metaverse was to take center stage in the company’s vision going forward. Virtual reality would become the main focus of the business, and advertising would take the back seat.
Meta reportedly spent 10 billion last year on its metaverse products at Reality Labs, its division that oversees AR/VR development across hardware and software. This includes Oculus, as well as Horizon Worlds, their metaverse platform. The company expects to grow its investments in the business over the next few years.
The metaverse refers to the digital world, one associated with augmented/virtual reality. To some, ‘Metaverse’ has become the newest tech buzzword, to others, it is a potential multi-trillion dollar industry, and is the driving factor behind Facebook’s name change.
Horizon Worlds is Meta’s online metaverse platform. It promises to be an online social and gaming platform where users are plugged in through virtual reality.
The vision is that people will work and play in this metaverse. The technology has been demonstrated as a way for remote workers to connect, with people putting on a virtual headset and joining a virtual meeting, like a physical but not physical zoom meeting.
In Horizon Worlds, players take on avatars in a virtual world. It is akin to games such as Second Life, Minecraft, and Roblox, but made for VR headsets. Gaming is a big part of Horizon, and it hopes to capitalize on the mechanics that make games like Roblox successful.
Horizon Worlds is currently available only on Oculus Rift S and Meta Quest 2, however, there are plans to bring the platform to mobile and PC.
Horizon Worlds had around 300,000 active users back in February, but it is a far cry from the tens of millions of active players that ‘metaverse’ titles such as Roblox and Minecraft have.
Horizon Worlds developers reportedly do not even use the service much. It has come to a point where Meta managers are held responsible for whether or not their subordinates are using the platform. Essentially, developers are forced to use the platform at least once a week.
Generally, game studios know they have made a hit when their developers cannot stop playing and replaying the games they made. Horizon Worlds’ developers not using the service they made is a major red flag and is a sign that the developers may not be confident in the product they are making.
But Horizon worlds isn’t the only metaverse platform struggling. Decentraland, a crypto-based metaverse world where you could buy and sell virtual property reported only 23 active users over the last week.
At the height of the crypto bull market plots of virtual land were selling for millions of dollars. Fortunately, reality has set in, and people have realized the worthlessness of such property.
Many proponents of the metaverses see huge potential for applications in gaming. But is the metaverse really any conceptually different than the online MMORPGs that gamers have been playing for decades? Is the modern concept of the metaverse the result of San Franciscan techies who try to solve problems that don’t exist, offering solutions that are not needed?
Like Horizon Worlds and Decentraland, Metaverse projects are failing across the board. For some reason, technologists are touting the metaverse as the next big breakthrough, meanwhile, gamers have engaged in virtual worlds for decades. The Metaverse is already there, you don’t need to slap on an expensive headset to access it.
Programs like Second Life have already done what most metaverse projects set out to do, and they did it nearly 20 years ago. Minecraft, Fortnite, GTA 5, and more have all created massive online worlds that have 95% of the features the metaverse of the technologist’s fantasies have.
Over the last year, Meta’s stock has dropped nearly 59%. Quarter after quarter, Meta reports losses due to its significant spending on the metaverse, while it suffers from a decline in advertising revenue. One may ask why is Meta investing tens of billions in a product that may not even catch on with consumers.
Meta’s Metaverse seems like another one of big tech’s gaming missteps. Both Netflix and Google have made attempts to enter the arena of interactive entertainment, but both made the mistake of trying to do something different, or more specifically not knowing what they are doing at all.
These big technology companies have the money to spend billions of dollars on projects, but gaming is not an industry where you will be successful by throwing money at the wall.
Maybe when Apple unveils its long-awaited headset will Meta snap back into reality. Meta also has to compete with other Metaverse contenders such as Microsoft, Unity, and Nvidia, as well as the masses of proclaimed web 3.0 metaverse startups.
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