Meta’s Ambitious VR Acquisitions Attract Antitrust Probe

by | Feb 10, 2022 | Blog | 0 comments

At the company’s annual Connect conference in October 2021, Mark Zuckerberg announced that Facebook was renamed “Meta,” as a better embodiment of the company’s future focus on metaverse. At the core of this ambitious plan to build a virtual universe is Meta’s VR business. Since its rebranding, the company has undergone a sweeping transformation. A large percent of Meta’s new job listings are for roles in its VR team and it is also pushing its employees to apply for new positions in the VR team. In fact, Meta’s investment in VR started long before.

Since as early as 2019, Meta has been making a series of VR-related acquisitions. In 2019, Meta bought Beat Games, the maker of Beat Saber, which was the most popular VR game on the Oculus platform by far when the acquisition took place. In 2020, Meta acquired Sanzaru Games and Ready at Dawn, another two VR game studios. Then in 2021, Meta bought Unit 2 Games, maker of the Crayta platform, which was a fast-growing platform that allowed users to make and share games. A week later, Meta acquired BigBox VR, the creator of Population: One, an exceedingly popular first-person shooter VR game. Up to this point, Meta owned at least half of the top six most profitable VR games on its own Oculus platform.

Meta has managed to keep this VR shopping spree under the radar for quite a while because the purchase prices were too small to attract government attention. As Meta again made a move to acquire Within, the developer that created the VR workout game Supernatural, for over $400 million, FTC finally stepped in and slowed down the acquisition. Weeks later, FTC and multiple state attorneys general started a probe into Meta’s VR business for potential anti-competitive practices. This probe not only examines how Meta may have suppressed competition in the VR apps market, but also looks at how the company subsidizes the prices of its Quest 2 VR headset to push it on consumers and box out the competition. The Oculus app store, Meta’s online VR game platform, was reported to have discriminated against third-party apps whose features overlap with Meta’s own apps. Meta also priced its Meta Quest headset at a $299 price point that heavily undercut the price of other VR headsets.

Although Meta’s VR business might still face strong competition from Apple, Google, and Microsoft, as they are all planning to launch their own VR devices soon, Meta clearly has a head start with its multiple acquisitions of various VR studios and with Oculus’s strong presence in the VR hardware market. Thus, the ongoing antitrust inquiry appears especially critical to Meta’s overall VR strategy.