VR antitrust action as FTC tells Meta it cannot buy another VR company

It may seem a bit early for an antitrust intervention on virtual reality, in an area that still remains a niche of interest, but the FTC is not at risk. He decided to block Meta’s planned purchase of fitness company VR Within.

The aggressiveness of the decision makes it seem likely that Apple will face similar obstacles when it acquires virtual reality companies to help its next Apple Headset product …

Facebook’s parent company Meta took its first step into virtual reality through an acquisition: the purchase of Oculus in 2014. Company founder Mark Zuckerberg believes the metaverse is the future of the Internet and CNN notes that Meta has recently bought other virtual reality companies.

It has made a number of VR-related acquisitions, including the game development platform Unit 2 Games and Beat Games, the developer behind Beat Saber.

However, the FTC opposes the planned purchase of another virtual reality company.

The Federal Trade Commission on Wednesday decided to stop Facebook’s parent company Meta from acquiring virtual reality company Within, offering the clearest signal that the agency could take a tougher stance on Silicon Valley deals involving new technologies.

In a lawsuit filed in a federal court on Wednesday, the FTC said Meta had the resources to create its own VR apps similar to those of Within, the company behind the Supernatural virtual fitness program. Instead, the FTC says, Meta (FB) is looking to buy the newcomer, who “[dampen] future innovation and competitive rivalry.

Supernatural is one of the most popular VR apps running on Meta’s existing VR headsets.

Meta says it’s ridiculous to apply antitrust measures in such a nascent market.

The FTC said in its complaint that the deal would reduce Meta’s incentive to develop its competitor Supernatural or add new features to Beat Saber, a Meta-owned VR app that the FTC says takes up space similar to that of a fitness app. Meta, in a blog post in response to the complaint, said that Supernatural is not comparable to Beat Saber and therefore the deal does not pose competition problems. […]

Meta spokesman Stephen Peters said in a statement that the FTC case is “based on ideology and speculation, not evidence”.

“The idea that this acquisition would lead to anti-competitive results in a dynamic space with as much entry and growth as online and connected fitness is simply not credible,” Peters said in the statement. “By attacking this deal with a 3-2 vote, the FTC is sending a chilling message to anyone looking to innovate in VR. We are confident that our acquisition of Within will benefit people, developers and the VR space.

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I share Meta’s surprise at VR antitrust action at such an early stage. However, given the history of actions taken only when it is too late – when one or more companies have already achieved massive dominance in the market – perhaps it makes sense to try to act sooner.

One thing seems clear: if Meta is seen as a tech player too big to detect potential rivals, then Apple is likely too, especially considering Zuckerberg’s view that the iPhone maker will become the other dominant player in reality. virtual.

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