The metaverse of Meta, Horizon Worlds, arrives in France ahead of several controversies

It’s done: After more than six months of anticipation, Meta, the Facebook group’s parent company, launched its metaverse, called Horizon Worlds, in France and Spain on Tuesday, August 16. The announcement came from the boss himself, Mark Zuckerberg, in a post on Facebook. “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, who made a strategic shift to the metaverse in October 2021.

Launched last December in the US and Canada, then in June 2022 in the UK, Horizon Worlds is the metaverse designed by Meta: a platform where users are equipped with a Quest virtual reality headset – which dominates the VR headset market and belongs to Meta- can immerse himself in a virtual universe thanks to an avatar. Given the future of the Internet in Silicon Valley and by techno-enthusiasts, the metaverse is supposed to create a truly immersive virtual world with its own economy – via the purchase of NTF – and new uses in many sectors, especially entertainment (virtual worlds already exist in certain video games , such as Fortnite or Roblox, for example), but also e-commerce -with an avatar that can practically try on your outfits…-, art, real estate or even luxury.

How Meta (Facebook) wants to monetize the metaverse

A risky bet and a difficult start

So far, Horizon World is still very far from keeping its promises: as shown in the image published by Mark Zuckerberg, the platform shows a design that is rudimentary to say the least, very far from the perfect fluidity promised between the real and the virtual world. . In addition, the need to own a VR headset is a major obstacle. 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 remains expensive and still far from the general public, which reserves the metaverse for a minority of equipped people, awaiting 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 applications that will 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 US launch, it claimed 300,000 users and 10,000 virtual worlds.

The Metaverse is therefore above all a money pit for Meta to this day. In the second quarter of 2022, the Reality Labs division certainly achieved $452 million in revenue (+48% compared to last year), but it suffered a massive net loss of $2.8 billion. In a difficult market environment for tech companies, Meta decided to lay off and also announced a 33% increase in the price of the Quest 2, its flagship headset, from $299.99 to $399.99. A decision that could slow the adoption of VR and therefore the public’s shift into the metaverse…

That is why it is important for Meta to maintain hype and to 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 add substance to the metaverse. In April, the company began testing the sale of virtual goods by content creators. In June, Mark Zuckerberg announced that avatars will soon be able to visit each other’s homes in their own virtual home, the universe which they have chosen to visualize when they put on the helmet (like a terrace in the mountains or a space station).

Meta (Facebook): the causes of an unprecedented bad pass

Controversy and risk darken the horizon of Meta’s metaverse

Surrounded by major scandals -Cambridge Analytica in 2017, the Facebook files in 2021…-, increasingly watched by regulators, Meta is also not immune to controversy in the metaverse. Users have already complained about cases of harassment on Horizon Worlds, leads Meta to establish a minimum distance between avatars. As on Facebook, the weak moderation is highlighted: a researcher even declared to have been raped, via his avatar, on the platform.

Another big problem: Meta’s greed to capture the lion’s share of revenue from what they believe is the new internet, or web3, has already angered developers. And with good reason:To launch an application compatible with the Oculus Quest headset, go through the Quest Store, the Meta application store in VR. As Apple and Google do in the mobile world of smartphones, Meta gives itself an automatic 30% commission on all purchases and takes between 15% and 30% commission on subscriptions. To this tax is even added the commission from 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 purchase by Meta from Within Unlimited, publisher of virtual reality fitness app Supernatural. FTC Says Purchase Violates Antitrust Laws: Blames Company “buy market shares instead of earning them on profit“. In other words, the regulator is opposed to Meta reproducing in the metaverse the growth strategy it had applied in the social network sector with the takeovers of Instagram and WhatsApp. Bad news for the continuation of Mark Zuckerberg’s metaverse.