Facebook parent company Meta put all of its eggs in Mark Zuckerberg’s Metaverse basket last year, but the company’s virtual world dreams are now dead in the water.
Mark Zuckerberg’s $36 billion project aimed to bring users into a real-life equivalent of Ready Player One. Using Oculus Quest technology, Meta aimed to create a realistic virtual world for users to work, play and socialise in.
In a report by Business Insider, Meta is already winding down development of its Metaverse project. While the Augmented and Virtual Reality hardware is still in the works for gaming and other functions, the lofty Metaverse goals are being sidelined.
Instead, Meta is pivoting to artificial intelligence development, an area of the company that has proven fruitful over the past half-decade. Following the rampant success of OpenAI’s ChatGPT, the company is doubling down on its AI efforts.
This isn’t too surprising as Meta has always had issues with Mark Zuckerberg’s Metaverse plans. Not only have investors turned against the virtual world, but employees working on the project refused to use their own tools during development.
However, Meta has also seen numerous issues on its AI development as well. As money was funnelled towards Mark Zuckerberg’s Metaverse, the AI researchers were left to the wayside, leading to a number of high-profile resignations.
While the promise of a true Ready Player One virtual world is now dead, Meta is still supporting its VRChat competitor Horizon Worlds for the foreseeable future. After $36 billion of investment, the company is keeping the ship afloat, even if it isn’t planning to actually right the ship.
Facebook’s pivot to The Metaverse has been seen as a weird and dangerous move for the company. Due to the company’s lack of protection for its social media users, many expressed worry that The Metaverse would not be moderated properly, something Meta managers admitted in leaked meetings.
Furthermore, even in its light launch, users were met with a number of inappropriate issues within the virtual world. Rampant sexual harassment and virtual groping led to numerous complaints which, in turn, led to restrictions on character interactions.
With other VR platforms like Rec Room and VRChat already cornering the virtual socialisation market, Horizon Worlds has failed to catch on. As Meta’s plan to bring advertisers, brands and virtual items into its Metaverse ecosystem, the company can never compete with the free alternatives that already garnered massive audiences.
Mark Zuckerberg’s Metaverse failures come after the quick death of crypto-led virtual items, aka NFTs. While not specifically necessary for Meta’s virtual world, the popularity of NFTs was an integral part of the company’s vision for profit. With the cryptoart market’s quick death, many plans for Meta’s virtual world fell through.