There’s No Fixing Meta’s Metaverse, Scrap It, Start Over

While everyone’s attention is currently focused on Elon Musk’s Twitter takeover, it bears repeating that this the worst place Meta/Facebook has been in for an extremely long time, driven in part by Mark Zuckerberg’s relentless pursuit of his vision of the metaverse, the science fiction concept that after eight years of investment and billions of dollars, he appears to be maybe, 2% toward reaching the goal.

At this point, I do not see a way forward for Meta’s VR-driven metaverse. No amount of avatar face-tracking or better graphics or even legs is going to solve the deep, core problems of the experience of places like Horizon Workrooms or Horizon Worlds, the core metaverse apps for business and pleasure that are horrifically ugly, barely functional and breeding grounds for at best, awkward social interactions with strangers, or at worst, active harassment.

The Verge recently posted a video review of the Quest Pro, the new $1500 headset meant for “business use,” but while the tech is fine (though many have said certainly not 4x better than a Quest 2 at 4x the cost), we’ re talking about an “enterprise” market when the core apps for the thing barely even work, like effectively getting people into a Horizon Workroom meeting in the first place, or conducting “business” in the metaverse where everyone is legless, jittery avatars and trying not to burst out laughing at how ridiculous it all is.

There is a tiny market for a place like Horizon Worlds, a place that has a few VR die-hards trapped in its spell, but it’s mostly a ghost town full of empty worlds, ones which are getting more and more empty with each passing week as the social app has lost 100,000 users this year, and likely has less concurrent players at any given time than the top 100 games on Steam.

It’s pretty clear at this point there is no saving this current version of the metaverse. Facebook acquired Oculus in 2014, and what you’re seeing before you, this bugged-out, empty, virtual purgatory, is the result of eight years of not just investment in the platform but the entire company pivoting to allegedly support it. If this is the progress they’ve made after nearly a decade, where is Meta going to be in another decade as R+D costs balloon even further? Even for a megacorp, it’s easy to see how this has become absolutely unsustainable.

It’s costing a fortune to even attempt to build the metaverse as a place people want to actively seek out and go to, and let’s assume you achieve that miraculous goal, you then have to monetize the place so it’s actually generating revenue, which carries the risk of making it actively worse for users. Meta has tried to do both at once, and has already brought in a bunch of brands for very stupid things like Accenture’s paper doll virtual office or Godzilla stepping on a Wendy’s as some sort of Dada-ist crossover.

I am not saying VR, as a whole, is doomed. I think that tech is still making slow but sure progress, and there are some fun game experiences to be had there using the Quest, PSVR or what have you. But I think Meta’s specific vision of the metaverse between Horizon Workrooms and Worlds is dead, and there’s no reviving it. Keep investing in VR tech if you like, but if they really want to build the metaverse someday, they have to scrap this current version and not bring anything back online again until it at least can outperform PlayStation Home from 2008.

Right now, Meta is taking a firehose of money and pointing it straight into a black hole. Seeing the progress, or lack thereof, from eight years of investment so far does not incline me to believe that the next big breakthrough is just around the corner, especially since they can’t even put dates on upgrades that should have been made five years ago, like legs.

Next year, the Quest 3 will come out and probably be the best deal in VR. But being a possibly worthwhile VR headset is far different from the larger challenge of building an immersive metaverse, and right now Meta is doing active harm to that idea with the very existence of a platform like Horizon. They need to either start over, or finally realize that they’re just not going to make this happen in the company’s lifetime, and should refocus on making their core apps better. I hear Twitter could use a competitor…

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Pick up my sci-fi novels the Hero killer series and The Earthborn Trilogy.

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