Metaverse expansion: FTC does not charge Meta CEO Zuckerberg

Metaverse expansion: FTC does not charge Meta CEO Zuckerberg

The FTC wants to curb Meta's market power in the VR sector. In the proceedings against the Supernatural acquisition, it is no longer targeting Mark Zuckerberg personally.

Meta acquired five successful VR studios in recent years, such as Beat Saber developer Beat Games. The FTC now wants to put a stop to Meta's expansion drive: The U.S. competition authority reviewed Meta's recent acquisition of startup Within Unlimited, which operates the successful VR fitness app Supernatural for Meta Quest (2), in December 2021.

The deal was expected to cost $400 million. However, in early August, the FTC filed a lawsuit against Meta to prevent the acquisition. The goal of the antitrust case is to prevent a monopoly where the group dominates the VR fitness app market. Meta eventually paused the acquisition until Jan. 1, 2023, or until a court ruling.

Antitrust case waives Zuckerberg

Meanwhile, Mark Zuckerberg himself is no longer a defendant: the FTC agreed to waive Meta's CEO as a defendant, CNET reports. The prerequisite for this was that Zuckerberg does not launch any personal attempts to take over the Supernatural studio.

The competition authority was concerned that the acquisition would stifle competition in VR fitness, as Beat Saber also offers fitness features. The case was brought by Lina Khan as part of a new initiative against the increasing market power of tech companies. Kahn was appointed by U.S. President Joe Biden to chair the FTC.

Meta countered that the FTC's complaint was based on ideology and speculation rather than evidence. It expressed confidence that the acquisition "will be good for people, developers, and the VR industry," the official statement said.

Supernatural's VR fitness program offers workouts that change daily, professional trainers in the form of video avatars, and idyllic natural panoramas. To monitor vital signs, for example, the app can be connected to the Apple Watch, similar to Apple's own Fitness+ offering. The subscription costs $19.99 per month.


Fitness competition on the Meta Quest 2

Supernatural is far from without competition, however. Les Mills Bodycombat, for example, offers a VR workout based on real classes without subscription costs for a one-time price of $30.

Furthermore, the Quest store also offers FitXR (subscription model) and many physically intense VR music games like Pistol Whip or Synth Riders. In May, Meta promoted a whole range of fitness titles.

Other investments by the Facebook parent also caught the attention of the FTC. Among other things, Meta bought exclusive rights to the screens of the British manufacturer Plessey and, in December, the special lens developer ImagineOptix.

The Quest 2's recent price hike could be an attempt to give the FTC less of a target in the future. After all, the VR headset has so far been unrivaled in terms of price due to strong cross-financing with advertising money - the FTC has also denounced this.

Meta has not yet commented on the current developments in the antitrust proceedings.

Sources: CNET