Meta buys Supernatural to bring “future of VR fitness” to life
February 09, 2023:
Meta announces on its official blog that it has met all regulatory requirements to complete the acquisition of Within. Jason Rubin, Meta's vice president of content, officially welcomes the new studio and sees it as an important partner in shaping "the future of VR fitness."
Within co-founder Chris Milk talks about a "new chapter for Supernatural," but doesn't go into specific plans for the fitness app in the announcement.
Milk's 360 video app, also called Within, will be discontinued. Milk began his XR career as a 360 video enthusiast, claiming that VR is an "empathy machine."
Update February 7, 2023:
The FTC will not appeal the California court decision (see below). This clears the way for Meta's acquisition of Within. According to a Meta spokesperson (via The Verge), the deal is expected to close soon. This will be Meta's tenth acquisition of a VR studio since 2019.
Original post from February 1, 2023:
Meta may have scored a victory in its case against the FTC: According to a report, the judge denied the U.S. antitrust regulator’s preliminary injunction.
In October 2021, Meta announced the acquisition of Within. The studio develops the successful fitness app Supernatural. The U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) did not take kindly to the proposed acquisition and launched an investigation in 2021, fearing that Meta would create a monopoly in VR fitness.
The investigation turned into a lawsuit, which may now have a fortunate ending for Meta. According to Bloomberg, a federal court in San Jose, California, has denied the FTC’s request for a preliminary injunction to block the deal.
Meta’s Within acquisition still uncertain
Bloomberg cites anonymous sources familiar with the matter. According to the sources, the path for the proposed acquisition is not clear. At the same time, U.S. District Judge Edward Davila has issued a temporary restraining order preventing Meta from closing the deal for one week.
This period would allow the FTC to appeal the decision, if necessary. The agency would also have to decide whether to pursue the case further. The first hearing before the FTC’s administrative law judge is scheduled for February 13.
Meta has not yet commented on the report. The FTC also declined to comment to Bloomberg, saying the decision had not been made public.
Bloomberg sees the outcome as a setback for Lina Khan: The FTC chairwoman, who was appointed by U.S. President Joe Biden, has taken a more aggressive stance against large technology companies suspected of seeking monopoly positions.
In December, top executives including Mark Zuckerberg and engineering director Andrew Bosworth testified in the Meta case. The Federal Trade Commission also opened a case against Microsoft’s acquisition of Activision Blizzard.
Meta’s acquisition of Within would actually be just a small part of a larger buying spree: since 2019, the Facebook company has acquired nine VR studios, including Beat Saber studio Beat Games and Lone Echo developer Ready at Dawn. Reportedly, the acquisition of Supernatural was planned as a counter move to whatever Apple is planning with its XR headset.
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