The future of the metaverse may soon be decided by a judge, which would have major repercussions for those who utilise virtual reality (VR).
The FTC has filed suit to block Meta’s proposed acquisition of Within, the developer of a virtual reality fitness programme. Experts think the outcome of the litigation might determine who controls the metaverse for years to come, as the government claims that approving Meta’s purchase would create a monopoly.
Eric Alexander, creator of the metaverse-based entertainment platform Soundscape VR, told Lifewire in an email interview that “if Meta is stopped from continuing its purchase binge, it means the playing field of the VR sector will be levelled.” “Everyone in the VR industry stands to gain from this” (besides Zuckerberg). Stopping Meta’s VR acquisitions will help customers, developers, and smaller VR companies by fostering growth and creativity in VR development and preventing Meta from restricting innovation.
Is This Monopoly Money?
The Federal Trade Commission has filed a lawsuit to block Meta’s purchase of Within on the grounds that doing so would “tend to create a monopoly” in the virtual reality fitness app market. A preliminary injunction has been requested to prevent the purchase.
FTC claims that Meta’s virtual reality empire comprises the most popular VR hardware, the most popular VR app store, seven of the most popular VR developers, and the best-selling VR software of all time. The firm claims that Meta and its CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, are plotting to acquire a fitness app in an effort to further Meta’s global expansion.
According to FTC Bureau of Competition Deputy Director John Newman’s statement in the announcement, Meta is “seeking to buy its way to the top” rather than compete “on the merits” of the company. “Meta owns a top-grossing VR fitness software, and it can easily rival Within’s smash hit Supernatural. However, Meta opted to purchase her way to the top of the market rather than earn her place there. We shall seek any and all legal recourse necessary to prevent this illegal acquisition.
But AR and augmented reality (AR) firm CEO Lyron Bentovim told Lifewire in an email interview that the scenario shows the FTC’s unease with Meta’s dominant position in the VR market and with the acquisitive power of large technology with companies in general. According to Bentovim, the FTC’s wariness stems from the agency’s history of handling antitrust cases involving Microsoft and other large technology businesses.
However, as Bentovim pointed out, “Meta isn’t stopping users from playing non-Meta VR apps,” so their pursuit of Within shouldn’t be taken too seriously. There is no preference given to Meta’s own apps in the Oculus Store, as third-party programmes can be found there alongside Meta’s own.
The FTC is basing its actions on the examples established by firms like Microsoft, even though there is no monopolisation occurring here. Since Meta produces the vast majority of VR headgear sold in the United States, I think the FTC is concerned that the company may also dominate another sector of the virtual reality industry: VR game development.
A Smaller Selection of Metaverse Content?
According to Alexander, the FTC is aware that Meta could purchase every VR app if it were permitted to operate unchecked. Additionally, he claimed that Meta’s financial resources provide them a significant competitive advantage over other software companies.
The companies it seeks to buy are vastly different from Meta both financially and organizationally. Moreover, “Meta is in a predatory position right now, and given its great strength in the modern IT sector, it has the potential to completely rule the still-emerging VR field,” Alexander said.
If Meta were to win their case against the FTC, it would set a dangerous precedent, as Alexander pointed out. Everything wrong with the modern technological environment will be transferred to the emerging VR market. Its stead of being a genuine creative space where invention may be rewarded, [it] will become just another tool for advertising and corporate domination.
Bentovim, on the other hand, argues that Meta’s purchase of Within won’t eliminate any of the other VR fitness apps. According to him, “there really isn’t a problem here” unless Meta begins selling Quest 2s with their in-house apps already downloaded and makes it more difficult for users to download competitive programmes.