Today’s Cache | Facebook takes relics of app world into metaverse

Today’s Cache is a column on the happenings in the world of tech and corporations.

Updated - April 19, 2022 07:44 pm IST

Published - April 19, 2022 03:59 pm IST

Picture used for representational purpose only.

Picture used for representational purpose only.

Since Facebook made a push for metaverse in October after whistle-blower revelations tarnished its reputation, the company has made announcements about its latest bet only in fits and starts. But the platform has already started laying an ‘in-app’ payment foundation for its VR world.

Meta began building a social VR ecosystem even before the whistle-blower episode. Horizon, the company’s social VR arm, was launched as an invite-only beta in August 2020. And then it was opened to all users in U.S. and Canada who had access to the Oculus Quest 2 VR headsets. (Under 18-year-old users are not allowed to access the VR platform.)

Horizon is the umbrella platform that hosts the company’s gaming, live events, and VR conferencing services. Horizon Worlds offers VR-based gaming; Venues caters to live events; and Workrooms supports conferencing experience.

In February, Chris Cox, Meta’s chief product officer, shared with employees that the company’s VR bet is gaining traction. According to a report by The Verge, citing employees who heard Cox at the meeting, Horizon’s monthly active user base grew by a factor of 10x to 300,000 people. This included Worlds, Venues and Workrooms.

Before its December rollout, only Horizon Worlds was in private beta for users to test the platform’s digital world-building tools. The infrastructure is similar to Microsoft’s Minecraft or the popular game-building interface Roblox. It lets people create their own digital spaces to hang out and play games with other users in the community.

Meta shared that its creators have built 10,000 separate worlds in Horizon Worlds as of February. It also noted that a private Facebook group for creators now numbers over 20,000 members. The company is yet to share how many of its VR headsets has been sold to date as it will be helpful to gauge Horizon’s success relative to the underlying hardware platform it runs on. Market intelligence firms peg sales to be over 10 million for the Quest headset.

While the game-building platform doesn’t make money for Facebook parent yet, the pressure is on for it to be successful. There is also pressure to keep the creator community engaged and build custom worlds.

So, it has begun testing monetisation option with select creators. The option will let the handful of creators to sell their digital avatars, skins, or other accessories. They could also charge other users to enter some part of their world. Payments made in the digital land would be transferred on a monthly basis via in-world payment.

According to a report by TechCrunch, Facebook will take a 25% cut of goods sold on the platform. That doesn’t sound like a lot until you know that those goods will also separately be taxed 30%, taken from the Oculus Store. So, the combined tax on the virtual goods sold on Horizon Worlds will be a whopping 47.5%.

The social network received a blowback for its monetisation policy from another entity that charges in-app payments, Apple’s App Store.

Apple’s spokesperson told MarketWatch “Meta has repeatedly taken aim at Apple for charging developers a 30% commission for in-app purchases in the App Store — and have used small businesses and creators as a scapegoat at every turn. Now — Meta seeks to charge those same creators significantly more than any other platform.”

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