Facebook Doesn’t Have a Coherent Social VR Strategy—But They’re Working on Something Big

Ben Lang of the Road to VR website doesn’t mince words in an article titled Facebook Has Four Separate Social VR Apps, and None of Them Are on Quest:

Facebook’s fragmented approach to social VR hasn’t gotten any better with the launch of Quest. The company now has four separate social VR apps, and none of them are currently available on its newest headset.

With Oculus, Facebook has aimed to build the premiere VR ecosystem, but when it comes to allowing users of the company’s different headsets—Go, Quest, and Rift—to actually interact with one another, it has completely dropped the ball.

And, as I blogged about earlier, Oculus Quest users do not have access to any Facebook-branded social VR platforms: no Facebook Spaces, no Oculus Home, no Oculus Rooms, no Oculus Venues. Facebook has basically left social VR to third-party vendors like VRChat and Rec Room, both of which will probably see a jump in user concurrency figures with the launch of the Oculus Quest headset, which I predict will prove very popular with consumers.

Adi Roberston, a senior reporter for The Verge, posted a tweet about Ben Lang’s article, which led to a very interesting response from Infinite Retina, who apparently has heard some industry gossip and is willing to spill some tea:

Infinite Retina said:

We hear Facebook is working on a major VR initiative that will come out in next 15 months. Code named “Metaverse.” They ended Facebook Spaces to get the programmers to work on this new thing.

My first response to this tweet was “Hallelujah! They’re killing Facebook Spaces!“. (My second response was “Holy shit!“.)

As I have said before, Facebook has the potential to be a major disruptive force in social VR, if they could only get their act together. And it sounds as if that is exactly what they are planning to do. All the current players in social VR had better be paying attention, and planning accordingly. They have only a small window to make an impact with their products before Facebook launches their “Metaverse” product, and when they do, it’s gonna be pretty much the only thing that the news media will be talking about (if the oceans of fawning press coverage over every stupid little upgrade to Facebook Spaces is any indication). And Facebook has very deep pockets for things like programmer salaries and advertising budgets.

Fasten your seatbelts! Things are gonna get really interesting!

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Rec Room Is Coming Soon to the iPhone and iPad, Plans to Create an In-Game Economy for Content Creators

Road to VR and UploadVR both report that the popular social VR platform Rec Room is expanding to both the iPhone and iPad. If you wish to be an iOS beta tester, you can sign up here.

Rec Room also has plans to create an in-game economy where content creators can get paid. UploadVR reports:

Against Gravity has big plans for Rec Room with the goal that “someone in school with no coding knowledge can build a game in an afternoon and ship it on console, PC, mobile, and VR. We’re already seeing this happen, but we think the ability to instantly build and publish a game gets a lot more interesting when you open up the audience to anyone with a mobile device.”

In addition to cross-platform creation tools, the company is also looking into ways for creators to get paid for their works in Rec Room.

“We’re looking into letting creators charge in-app tokens for inventions they created, costumes, events, and for different things they can build into their games and rooms,” according to the company.

Rec Room is going into some interesting directions!

UPDATED! MetaWorld: Is There Life in This Virtual World Project After All?

Recently, I’ve received a couple of emails from people regarding MetaWorld, which is a virtual world I assumed had folded when most of their developers left the project. There had been many questions raised on Reddit and other places about the status of the project, which led me to label it “Buyer Beware” in my list of social VR/virtual worlds. Most recently, Somnium Space offered refunds to people who had purchased pioneer rights in MetaWorld, so by this I assumed that the project was well and truly dead.

The first email I got was from Dedric Reid, who appears to be associated with MetaWorld, who told me:

Hey Ryan, you’ve published false information about my product MetaWorld. Want to talk about it?

I responded, asking him for more information, and to specify where I was wrong, but I never got any sort of reply back. Then, just yesterday, another email came, this one from a user of MetaWorld named Emmiren:

I read the article on social VR/virtual worlds, and I noticed that MetaWorld has a warning on it that makes it sound like a scam. I am not part of the development team, but let me reassure you that MetaWorld is still in progress. Production was slowed to a halt for a while since the team had to wait for the Oculus SDK for unity 2019. Now that the SDK is out, progress has resumed and is going pretty quickly. There’s already the first island called “Turtle Islands” in progress by builders who are not part of the developer team, but part of the community. I just wanted to let you know that MetaWorld is still in progress and is not a scam. Again, I am NOT a developer, but I have been constantly watching and active in their community. 

I checked, and there’s a 40-second YouTube video showing Turtle Islands that is two months old, which is the most recent information I can find anywhere on the internet about MetaWorld:

So, it would appear that there might be something happening in MetaWorld after all! If that is the case, the company should probably update their website, which still looks to me like it hasn’t been updated in a very, very long time. If they are trying to turn this project around, they’re going to have to do some better work on their communications! Their Facebook and Twitter accounts have not been updated since 2018, for instance.

So, what I will do for now is this: I will remove my “Buyer Beware” warning from the MetaWorld entry on my list of social VR/virtual worlds, but until I get some questions answered about what the hell is really going on with this project, I would still caution any potential investors to be careful, and to do their homework before buying in.

You can follow MetaWorld via Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, or join their Discord server.

UPDATE 5:42 p.m.: I have had some private discussions with several people involved with the project as a result of this blogpost. These people, who wish to remain anonymous, told me that this project was started with the best of intentions, but they inform me that they do not currently expect to see anything to come of MetaWorld, which is disappointing news.

UPDATE 7:22 p.m.: The official response from MetaWorld (posted to their official Discord server in response to my question about the status of the project):

MetaWorld is still in development. We recently announced Turtle Islands as our first official MetaWorld settlement. The MetaWorld project has been delayed due to lack of up-to-date support and coordination between certain companies (Improbable’s SpatialOS, Unity 2019, and Oculus SDKs specifically). We are finally starting to see cooperation between these players and that should help get MetaWorld ready for a public release.

So, as you can see, I am getting different stories from different people.

UPDATE May 25th: I have decided to extend an invitation to Dedric to talk about The MetaWorld project. Here is the message I sent him via Discord:

Hello Dedric this is Ryan Schultz. You had contacted me via my blog and asked to talk. I emailed you but I have not received any response. I would like to offer you an opportunity to speak on the record about MetaWorld and answer some questions and address some criticisms which have been posted on Reddit and the Road to VR report on your project. Would you be willing to have an interview with me which would be published in my blog? We can talk about the journey this project has taken and your plans for the future. I hope to hear from you.