Original Article By Colette Bennett At TheStreet.com
While Meta’s (MVRS) – Get Meta Report announcements from its April 27 earnings call left both users and investors with a lot to talk about, there was one part that was particularly difficult to swallow.
From its rebranding as a metaverse company to opening what Zuckerberg calls “metaverse stores” (what are even in those?), no one is more desperate to make the metaverse relevant than the Meta CEO.
After pouring money by the truckload into its Reality Labs division, with 10,000 employees already working in it and more than 1,000 open roles listed on the company’s jobs site, as well as snapping up the virtual reality pioneer Oculus to rebrand it as its own, one would assume that Meta would have created something worthwhile to show investors.
Instead, it announced a loss of $2.96 billion last quarter on the project, which stands in stark contrast to the $650 million in revenue it earned. Even worse, Meta has lost close to $20 billion on VR since 2020, gaming website Kotaku reports.
These losses have earned even further skepticism for what Zuckerberg calls “the next era of social technology.” And while he clearly wants everyone to adopt this, the most obvious demographic to adopt it first is those who play video games using a virtual reality headset already.
Meta sold 8.7 million Meta Quest 2 virtual reality headsets in 2021 according to the International Data Corporation, so clearly people are more interested in the technology than ever before.
But as for creating a living, breathing digital world for people to enjoy being in–well, you can call that “the metaverse” all you want, but gamers have already had access to that kind of space for decades.
Meta didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
Do People That Play Video Games Care About the Metaverse?
Meta announced in February that its social VR platform “Horizon Worlds” had hit 300,000 users since it’s December 2021 launch. This includes users of Horizon Venues, which allows users to see live music performances, but not Horizon Workrooms, which is exclusively for workplace collaboration.
However, until recently the only way to access any of this was using Meta’s wireless VR headset, which starts at $299 U.S. And while those who already play video games were willing to pay that price to enjoy the hobby in a new way, many who don’t care simply not willing to shell out the money for what they see as a passing fad.
The VR headset also weighs 1.1 pounds, which doesn’t seem like much until you’ve worn it for a few hours and feel how much heavier your head really feels.
Meta clearly is aware of all of this, which is likely why Zuckerberg announced that a web-based version of “Horizon Worlds” is coming soon for those who have not opted to invest in the Meta Quest 2.
While there is a community using “Horizon Worlds” to create cool things, it’s pretty small. The official “Horizon Worlds” Twitter (TWTR) – Get Twitter, Inc. Report account has more than 10,000 followers, making it look moderately popular.
But the official Discord, a popular gathering forum for gamers, only has 669 members at the time of this writing, showing a noticeable disparity between the brand’s public-facing identity and its creator community.
Meta clearly sees that gamers are not buying into the metaverse, which is no surprise as they’ve been building their own worlds in games for decades. “Second Life,” a digital reality game launched in 2003 for PC users, pioneered the space 19 years ago.
To counteract that, Meta is gunning for its next target: making work in the metaverse the next big thing. Zuckerberg mentioned “Project Cambria” in the earnings call as well, a VR headset designed for professionals that he promises will “replace your laptop or work setup.”
But to do that with any degree of success, Meta will have to be able to coerce people that working in the metaverse has significant advantages. And with covid cases low and more people returning to the office than ever, the chances for it to do that seem dubious at best.
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