Meta's alleged bid to build a VR monopoly is challenged in a new FTC lawsuit
The magnitude of Facebook's pivot from social media to fully-immersive virtual environments is pretty overt, especially given its rebrand to Meta. Then again, the jury is still out on whether the OEM can really replicate the meteoric rise in success and influence it had with social media in this relatively new space.
It has fallen short of market estimates with its latest earnings report, has seen stock-value wobbles in the face of pessimistic economic forecasts and is now even obliged to raise the price of its flagship Quest headset.
Nevertheless, the FTC remains convinced that it is doing more than well enough for itself, to the extent that it threatens to become a disproprotionately large force in the VR space before too long. To this end, the Commission has moved to prevent this by unveiling plans to stop one of Meta's planned mergers.
Within Unlimited is a company with plans to bring its "unforgettable on-demand workout adventure" Supernatural to platforms such as the former Oculus in 2023. Its owner has big plans for the app, a merger with Meta to bring its Beat Saber-like approach to VR fitness to as many potential subscribers as possible. However, the FTC has seen this coming, and has thoughts and concerns.
The Commission argues that it is the latest step in Meta's bid to "buy its way to the top" of the market in question, particularly as it already owns companies and software all too close to Supernatural's use-cases. Therefore, the body will seek to prevent the merger, putting it down as an attempt to build a monopoly by "illegal" means.
Mark Zuckerberg's company has responded by dismissing the FTC's concerns as “based on ideology and speculation, not evidence", as well as a "chilling message to anyone who wishes to innovate in VR” in general.
Nevertheless, it may now be up to the US courts to decide if the merger is truly an attempt to make the metaverse all too Meta, and, thus, a case for a wider anti-trust issue for the emerging industry.