Meta is already failing on its promise of a better metaverse

A child uses the Roblox platform to manipulate virtual items
A child uses the Roblox platform to manipulate virtual items
Image: REUTERS/Phil Noble
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Meta’s plan to monetize its Facebook Horizon Worlds metaverse platform will include a set of hefty fees for creators of virtual items that add up to 47.5%, roughly half of what users bring in. The specifics of the fees were revealed by CNBC this week following a blog post in which the company discussed helping creators earn money on its virtual platform.

The problem is, in recent months Meta has made a point of criticizing Apple for its 30% App Store developer fee. “The 30% fees that Apple takes on transactions make it harder to do that, so we’re updating our Subscriptions product so now creators can earn more,” said Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg in November. 

However, Apple still hasn’t planted its flag in the virtual waters of the metaverse. The more direct comparison is to Roblox, which allows its users to earn money by creating and selling virtual objects. Like Apple, Roblox only takes a 30% fee from its users. 

Meta just undermined its own argument against its biggest competitors

Reaction to Meta’s fee, which is a combination of a “hardware platform” fee of 30% and a Horizon Worlds fee of 17.5%, was swift. Potential users, who have also pointed out that after taxes the creator’s net profit will be a fraction of an item’s sale price, don’t like it.

Meta’s currently depressed stock price, fueled by investor concerns that Zuckerberg’s metaverse vision may be too much, too soon, could explain the high fees attached to the still nascent Horizon Worlds platform. But with only 10,000 virtual worlds created, and only 300,000 monthly users, Horizon Worlds may find it challenging to attract creators, even with the announcement of a $10 million Creator support fund.

While stories of Roblox creators making nearly $1 million (paywall) a year from their virtual creations continue to circulate, along with creator windfalls from various NFT platforms like SuperRare, which only takes a 15% fee, Meta may be forced to rethink its fee structure if it plans to compete in an increasingly crowded metaverse marketplace.