How does Meta’s Metaverse stack up against the competition?
According to a report, Meta’s social VR world Horizon Worlds has successfully launched. Or has it?
US tech portal The Verge reported last week that Horizon has 300,000 monthly active users. Three months ago, it had 30,000.
Meta groups its Metaverse platforms under the Horizon brand. In addition to the most prestigious project, Horizon Worlds, there is the event app Horizon Venues, the meeting app Horizon Workrooms, and the still-in-development Horizon Home, a virtual home where you can invite other avatars. They are all currently accessible only in virtual reality.
Horizon Worlds: User numbers have little significance
Meta confirmed to The Verge that the 300,000 users include Horizon Worlds and Horizon Venues, without specifying the percentages. This raises questions.
Horizon Venues has been on the market since summer 2020, while Horizon Worlds only opened its doors at the beginning of December 2021, and only for citizens of the USA and Canada. It is possible that Meta wanted to inflate the user numbers by including both VR apps.
The much-publicized Foo Fighters concert in Venues alone could have attracted 100,000 users overnight, estimates Second Life expert Wagner James Au. More important than mere user numbers is how often and intensively Horizon Worlds is actually used. If a third of the users show up once a month for a concert, then they don’t bring much to the platform. Data on daily active users would be more meaningful but were not given by Meta.
2D metaverses are (very!) much larger
How much are 300,000 monthly users compared to other metaverse platforms? James Au writes on Twitter that 300,000 people try out the nearly twenty-year-old Second Life every month. Only a few are likely to become active users.
Au estimates the total user base of Metaverse-like platforms is at least 500 million. The strongest representatives are Roblox (210 million), Minecraft (160 million) and Fortnite (60 million).
However, a comparison with Second Life and Co. is unfair, after all, these are 2D platforms that do not require VR headsets, unlike Horizon Worlds. A smartphone is sufficient in most cases.
So, how does Horizon Worlds compare to the VR-capable Metaverse platforms Rec Room and VRChat?
Here’s how the VR competition fares
Rec Room came in at more than one million monthly active VR users early 2021, but has been in the market since 2016 (since 2019 on Meta Quest) and has had time to develop. Recently, Rec Room expanded to 2D platforms and is now available for PC, consoles, and smartphones. Au estimates a cross-platform user base of three to five million monthly.
VRChat, which was launched in 2017, does not publish monthly user numbers. What is known, however, is that on New Year’s Day 2021, the platform recorded a new high of simultaneously active Steam users, namely almost 90,000. That is comparable to the ten most played SteamVR games and more than Second Life has ever managed.
Like Rec Room, VRChat is available in a 2D version. According to the company, around 30 to 50 percent of users have used the app with VR headsets in the past, which is a respectable percentage. VRChat has a PC VR version and a mobile version for Meta Quest (2). Since costs and usage effort are lower with the standalone VR glasses, most VR users are likely to log in via Quest.
Horizon Worlds is only at the beginning
Rec Room and VRChat are much more successful than Horizon Worlds. This can be seen in the number of ratings in the Quest Store: Rec Room currently has 15,000 ratings, VRChat 11,000. Both are among the ten best-rated VR apps. Horizon Worlds has just 700 ratings.
This is also due to the fact that less than three months have passed since the launch of Meta’s platform and that only North American users are allowed. Since all content is user-generated, Metaverse platforms need a lot of time to get up and running.
The number of 300,000 registered users should therefore neither be overestimated positively nor negatively. Horizon Worlds is still in the beta phase and, according to initial test reports, does not yet have much to offer in terms of content.
Much more important for Horizon Worlds is what happens in the coming months and years. Meta controls by far the most successful VR platform with Quest 2 and has almost unlimited (advertising) resources, which will be a huge advantage eventually. But only when Horizon Worlds reaches the quality of a Rec Room and diversity of a VRChat will Meta be able to catch up with the competition.
A launch outside North America shouldn’t be long in coming, as well as a 2D expansion to smartphones, which Mark Zuckerberg announced for this year. Regarding user base, there’s huge growth potential, provided Meta learns from mistakes in moderation and poorly organized VR events.