Why Isn't Meta's Metaverse Taking Off?

“An empty world is a sad world.”

Not the inspiring words one would hope to hear regarding what had been touted as the next frontier of digital, but it is how Meta’s metaverse was described in recent company documents outlining the lack of success the company’s flagship metaverse offering, Horizon Worlds, has mustered over the last year.

Meta originally targeted 500,000 monthly active users (MAU) by the end of this year, however current reporting shows under 200,000 users showing up. For comparison, TikTok generates 1 billion MAUs and Meta owned Instagram clocks in at 1.28 billion. While no one expected Horizon Worlds to compete at scale with these social platforms, the lack of apparent interest, let alone adoption, of a platform so widely promoted gives rise to the question of why? Why are there no people populating Horizon Worlds? The answer may be simpler than the technology.

High Cost of Entry

As of today, Horizon Worlds are only accessible via Oculus headsets, which retail at roughly $400 on the low end. Where many users will shell out for a smartphone at a comparable price, the same cannot be said for a VR headset. These devices are a luxury, and one that many do not see the value in. Reports show that more than half of Oculus Quest headsets are not in use six months after purchase. Even for the most enthusiastic gamers, that is an expensive shelf decoration.

Newer headsets designed specifically for the metaverse are an even steeper grab, expected to retail at $1,500. For mass adoption, Horizon Worlds must be accessible via a lower common denominator for consumers. Just as access to the internet and the prevalence of smartphones gave social media its meteoric rise, Meta’s plans for the metaverse will require an accelerant to assist in its growth.

Low Portability

In addition to the high price tag associated with gaining entry, Horizon Worlds is not an experience users can enjoy while on the go. Unlike Roblox, which dominates the metaverse gaming landscape and can be accessed on a myriad of devices from almost anywhere in the world, participation in Horizon Worlds can only happen when the user remains in a stationary space, at least for now. News released at the Meta Connect conference indicated that the gaming world is coming to PC and mobile, however the roll out has been delayed and specific dates have not been released for an expected launch.

Consumers spend countless hours with their screens, across multiple devices, but one of the most important drivers of that time spent is the ease with which the platforms they visit are accessed. Whether it is scrolling through Instagram, watching a Twitch stream, or playing a game, entertainment can be consumed at home, on the go, and while doing other things. Not true for users engaged with a VR headset. To monopolize users’ attention with a single outlet will require a shift in user behavior, and as of now Meta has not created a medium powerful enough to do so.

The Experience Is Not Compelling

While the barriers to entry are notable, Horizon Worlds’ biggest challenge seems to be the experience itself. Users have been unimpressed by the platform, with complaints of bugs, a confusing interface, and the cartoonish, non-legged appearance of avatars leading the conversation. Creators have also struggled with the stability of the platform, as well as with the disappointment of low traffic to the worlds they create.

However, advocates of the platform argue that it is too soon to judge the experience so harshly. Gene Munster, founder of VC fund Loup, which holds a strong position in Meta, shared his belief that the metaverse is on course to become a primary destination in everyday life.

“Humans are...seeking easy experiences, and I think at the core, that’s what these are building, these incredibly immersive, enticing, addictive experiences.”

Whether or not the expected changes coming to Horizon Worlds in the near future will entice a greater number of users will have to be seen, but as of now there are other technologies and experiences that consumers have already expressed an appetite for.

Which Immersive Experiences Are Growing?

Horizon Worlds may have work to do, but Meta does seem to be on track with the expectation that users are actively searching for better experiences online, as seen by the success of several other digitally powered innovations in the entertainment and commerce spaces.

Conversations around the metaverse in particular frequently point to gaming platform, Roblox, as the strongest example of users’ commitment to the next evolution of digital immersion. The ability to both create and participate in the virtual world without the heavy focus on additional hardware has been cited as a driving force in its adoption. Its growth has been further aided by the popularity of virtual events, including concerts and fan meet ups, which have drawn significant attention across the gaming community. The interest in such events does not seem to be waning either; concert events on Epic Games’ Fortnite featuring Marshmello and Travis Scott set records of 10.7 million and 12.3 million viewers, while Lil Nas X garnered 33 million views over two days in a concert series on Roblox.

Away from the entertainment space, brands are turning to immersive experiences to drive stronger business results and consumer loyalty in an increasingly noisy environment. Social and livestream shopping have exploded on platforms such as Instagram and TikTok, capitalizing on value created by combining social currency with a frictionless environment. 3D shopping experiences, including product visualization, visual configuration, and augmented reality are shifting the power to shape a shopping experience from the brand to the buyer. Shoppers are no longer constrained by traditional photo and video placed on a webpage, instead empowered to explore, evaluate, and select products in ways that even physical retail cannot always match.

Enhancements in smartphone hardware have also opened the doors for immersive experiences on the go at home, leveraging WebAR to make augmented reality experiences accessible without an app.  Virtual try-on and room planning are some of the most popular examples of brands leveraging AR, but opportunities abound for brands looking to deliver unique and value added experiences for their customers.

The metaverse is frequently deemed as the most newsworthy digital innovation on the horizon, however with its short term potential hampered by barriers needing to be addressed, other immersive technologies are primed to deliver the results platforms, brands, and users are in search of.

Getting Started With Immersive Experiences

Dopple provides brands with an intuitive, low code platform to seamlessly integrate 3D and augmented reality experiences into an existing ecommerce site. Products come to life with digital twins that capture the attention and confidence of buyers shopping in an immersive setting. Find out more about how 3D can elevate your brand experience by connecting with our visual experts.