There it is: After more than six months of anticipation, Meta, the parent company of the Facebook group, launched its metaverse, called Horizon Worlds, in France and Spain on Tuesday, August 16. The announcement was made by the boss himself, Mark Zuckerberg, in a Facebook post. “I can’t wait to see people explore and build immersive worlds, and bring this to more countries soon.“wrote the founder of the social media empire, which made a strategic shift to the metaverse in October 2021.
Launching last December in the US and Canada, then in June 2022 in the UK, Horizon Worlds is Meta’s designed metaverse: a platform where users equipped with a market-dominating Quest VR headset of VR headsets and belongs to Meta- you can immerse yourself in a virtual universe thanks to an avatar. I considered the future of the Internet in Silicon Valley and for the techno-enthousiastes, the metavers are believed to create a veritable world of virtuel immersif, along with its own economy -via the NTF- and new usages in the names of sectors, notamment le divertissement (les worlds virtuels existent déjà dans certains jeux video comme Fortnite ou Roblox, par exemple) mais aussi le e-commerce -avec un avatar que essaie virtuellement vos tenues…-, l’art, l’immobilier ou encore the luxury.
A risky bet and a complicated start
For now, Horizon World is still a long way from fulfilling its promises: as the photo published by Mark Zuckerberg shows, the platform shows a rudimentary design, to say the least, far from the promised perfect fluidity between the real and virtual worlds. . Also, the need to own a VR headset is a major hurdle. If sales doubled in 2021 with 11.2 million copies sold worldwide according to the IDC institute -including 78% for Meta’s Oculus Quest-, virtual reality is still expensive and still far from being a general public , which reserves the metaverse for a minority of equipped people, pending the arrival of a web version available without headphones.
In addition, it still lacks the essential: the applications. Meta and other metaverse platforms need developers to create uses that convince users to switch to their virtual world. At the moment, the sauce is hard to take: Meta has not communicated about the adoption of Horizon Worlds since February, which is a bad sign. At the time, two months after its launch in the United States, it claimed 300,000 users and 10,000 virtual worlds.
The metaverse is thus above all a money pit for Meta to this day. In the second quarter of 2022, its Reality Labs division certainly achieved $452 million in revenue (+48% compared to last year), but suffered a massive net loss of $2.8 billion. In a tough market environment for tech companies, Meta decided to bid farewell and also announced a 33% price increase for the Quest 2, its flagship headset, from $299.99 to $399.99. A decision that could slow down the adoption of virtual reality and, therefore, the shift of the public to the metaverse…
Hence the importance for Meta of maintaining the hype and open Horizon Worlds to more and more markets. In the US, where the platform has been available since late 2021, Meta is gradually adding features that give the metaverse substance. In April, the company began testing virtual item sales by content creators. In June, Mark Zuckerberg announced that avatars will soon be able to visit each other’s homes in his own virtual home, the universe. that they have chosen to visualize when they put on the headset (such as a mountain terrace or a space station).
Controversies and risks darken the horizon of the Metaverse of the Meta
Surrounded by major scandals -Cambridge Analytica in 2017, the Facebook Archives in 2021…-, increasingly watched by regulators, Meta is not immune to controversy in the metaverse either. Users have already complained about cases of harassment in Horizon Worlds, leading Meta to establish a minimum distance between avatars. As on Facebook, the weak moderation stands out: a researcher even declared that she had been raped, through her avatar, on the platform.
Another major problem: Meta’s greed for capturing most of the revenue from what it believes to be the new Internet, or web3, has already infuriated developers. And for good reason:To launch an app compatible with the Oculus Quest headset, you need to go through the Quest Store, the Meta app store in VR. Just like Apple and Google do in the mobile world of smartphones, Meta gives itself an automatic 30% commission on all purchases, and takes a 15-30% commission on subscriptions. This tax is even added to the commission charged by Horizon Worlds, which can increase the total commission amount to 47.5%!
To make matters worse, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the US competition regulator, announced in July that he intended to block the acquisition by Meta of Within Unlimited, publisher of VR fitness app Supernatural. The FTC says that the purchase violates antitrust laws: it accuses the company “buy market share instead of earning it on meritIn other words, the regulator opposes Meta reproducing in the metaverse the growth strategy that it had applied in the social media sector with the takeovers of Instagram and WhatsApp. Bad news for the continuation of Mark Zuckerberg’s metaverse.
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