Facebook has staked its future on virtual reality and the metaverse, rebranding to Meta and spending billions a year building hardware and software beyond traditional social media. But the company, at least so far, has shared little with the public about how well its early bets are performing.
Meta’s most notable bet right now is a VR social platform for the Quest headset called Horizon Worlds. It was recently featured in Meta’s Super Bowl ad, and Zuckerberg called it “core of our metaverse vision” during the company’s most recent earnings call. During a virtual Meta all-hands earlier this week — yes, the one from Metamates — The company’s chief product officer, Chris Cox, gave employees an unprecedented update on Horizon’s user growth.
He said that since Horizon Worlds rolled out to all Quest users in the US and Canada in early December, its monthly user base has grown 10-fold to 300,000 people, according to an employee who heard the comment. Meta spokesperson Joe Osborne confirmed the stat, saying it included users of Horizon Worlds and Horizon Venues, a separate app for attending live events in VR that uses the same avatars and basic mechanics. The number does not include Horizon Workrooms, a VR conference experience which relies on an invitation system.
Prior to its December rollout, Horizon Worlds was in a private beta for creators to test its world-building tools. Similar to how the game platform Roblox or Microsoft’s Minecraft works, Horizon Worlds lets people build custom environments to hang out and play games as legless avatars. Meta announced this week that 10,000 individual worlds have been built in Horizon Worlds to date, and its closed creator Facebook group now has more than 20,000 members.
Since it’s only been a few months since Horizon Worlds went public, it’s too early to say whether the platform’s rapid growth will continue or whether it will be able to retain users over time. Monthly users for social products are always higher than daily users, which Cox has not disclosed to employees. And a holiday season boost of Quest headset sales has certainly added to the interest in people trying Horizon.
Meta has still not disclosed how many Quest headsets it has sold to date, which makes it difficult to measure Horizon’s success compared to the underlying hardware platform it runs on. But various third-party estimates link sales to over 10 million for the Quest. Zuckerberg recently said that Meta would release a version of Horizon for mobile phones later this year to “bring early metaverse experiences to more surfaces outside of VR.”
“So while the deepest and most immersive experiences will be in virtual reality, you’ll also be accessing the worlds from your Facebook or Instagram apps, and probably more over time,” the CEO said on Meta’s latest earnings call. . Bringing Horizon to mobile would position it as an even bigger competitor to Rec Room, a well-funded, social gaming app with 37 million monthly users across game consoles, mobile phones, and VR.
Even though Horizon Worlds isn’t making any money for Meta yet, the pressure is on to be successful, especially given that the company’s stock has plummeted as investors question the expensive metaverse push.
In addition to solving the content moderation and underage user issues in VR, Meta needs to make Horizon reliable enough for millions of users. Many people could not participate in a recently Foo Fighters concert held in Locations after the Super Bowl, and Horizon has yet to introduce ways for creators to make money. But if early user growth is an indicator, Horizon has a chance to get big.