Facebook’s quest for the metaverse started in 2014, when it bought Oculus (a name it recently discarded) for $2 billion. Since then, it’s made numerous VR acquisitions: Just one day after it rebranded to Meta, the company announced it was buying the VR workout app Supernatural.
A close look at Facebook’s slew of acquisitions hints at what the company thinks the future of VR will look like.
With expansive virtual worlds like Fortnite or Roblox, games have come closest to offering a sneak peek at what metaverses could be. So it’s no surprise that gaming is a pillar of Meta’s strategy. Moreover, Facebook is trying to revamp its unfashionable reputation of being a social network for Boomers—and the youths love games.
The company has snapped up five VR game studios in the last three years alone. In June, it bought BigBox VR, the studio behind Population: One, a.k.a. “the Fortnite of VR.”
Facebook Gaming has also bought Unit 2 Games, which makes Crayta, a collaborative game creation engine for multiplayer games.
The emphasis on multiplayer games among these studios helps explain why a company that runs social networking apps cares so much about VR in the first place.
Mike Verdu, VP of Content at Facebook Reality Labs, emphasized the potential of social VR in the acquisition announcement:
“For many of us, our ‘ah-ha’ VR moment was in a multiplayer experience. There’s something magical about interacting with geographically distant people in the same virtual space, whether you’re handing off objects, engaging in friendly competition, or simply catching up. We believe that these powerful social connections are paramount to accelerating the growth of VR, and we continue to invest in content and teams that share this perspective.”
Here are a few of the social aspects of the games Facebook has bought:
- Population: One is a multiplayer battle royale game like Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds.
- Military sim Onward is a multiplayer shooter game.
- Lone Echo, a narrative adventure game, spun out its multiplayer mode into a separate game, Echo Arena.
- Asgard’s Wrath is a single player role-playing game, but has an asynchronous multiplayer feature where users can see where other people died in the game.
But social VR won’t be just about gaming. Facebook has beefed up its portfolio to expand into fitness and music with Supernatural and Beat Saber.
- VR workout app Supernatural boasts a strong Facebook community.
- VR rhythm game Beat Saber just launched multiplayer mode.
Facebook has also been aggressively courting creators in all aspects of its business. It’s beginning to invest in user-generated content for metaverse-related purposes as well, including its acquisition of Unit 2 Games in June and its announcement of a $10 million creator fund for Horizon, its social VR world, in October.
It’s looking to emulate Roblox and Minecraft’s brand of success, which have seen enduring loyalty for user-generated worlds and games. An additional benefit: if this model takes off, it won’t face as much pressure to keep churning out professional, AAA-quality games that require massive investment and time.
In the past three years, Meta’s Oculus has gobbled up six VR companies. Take a look below.