A YouTuber spent a week in Meta’s Horizon Worlds and found that it was almost empty. Not only that, but the virtual world was full of children—contrary to Meta’s official policy.
YouTuber Jarvis Johnson recently uploaded a video exploring Meta’s Horizon Worlds. The company, which also owns Facebook, rebranded to Meta in November 2021, at the same time it announced its own metaverse, Horizon Worlds. The game officially launched on December 9, 2021, in the United States and Canada. Access for Europe and Asia came in 2022. Although, when Jarvis counted up the players in the top 20 most popular spaces, there were only 903 people. Horizon Worlds claims there are 200,000 monthly players.
Is Horizon Worlds Age Appropriate?
During the course of his video, Johnson pointed out a few incongruities about Zuckerberg’s barely-there metaverse. For one, the game itself has an ESRB rating for teens, and yet none of the default avatars look like a teen.
The social experience was also a decidedly adult affair, too. At one point, Johnson entered a “Comedy Club,” where all but one of the jokes were unsuitable for broadcast on his YouTube channel.
Learn more about why we need an open, interoperable metaverse: Why Do We Need Open Protocols in the Metaverse?
Horizon Worlds was also full of high-pitched voices of children, many of whom appeared to be under the age of 13. Even in nominally 18+ spaces, Johnson encountered yet more underage users.
In April, Meta announced it was opening up the virtual world to teenagers (13-17) in the United States and Canada. Previously, it was limited to users 18 and above.
However, US Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Ed Markey (D-MA) wrote a letter to Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg asking him to stop the plans. They argued a multiplayer virtual reality like Horizon Worlds posed “serious risks” to young people.
In response, Meta said it had introduced enhanced safety features and tools for parental supervision. Although they clearly don’t appear to be working. (However, one adult space did have a mechanism for measuring arm length to verify adulthood.)
Is the Metaverse Over?
It seems like a long time ago when Meta’s rebrand kicked off a market frenzy for metaverse tokens. Since then interest in the concept of the metaverse has declined by over 90%, according to Google Trends. Unsurprisingly, the company is now making a not-so-subtle pivot to AI.
Meta appears to have gotten the message. In June, the tech giant released its latest VR headset, the Quest 3. However, during the marketing for the announcement, there was no mention of its flagship VR product: Horizon Worlds.
Reality Labs, the VR division of Meta that includes Horizon Worlds, lost $13.7 billion in 2022. With interest in its chief product at rock bottom, the question may not be if the project folds, but when.
You can watch Jarvis Johnson’s full video here.
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