FTC sues Meta to stop VR developer acquisition

Monopoly laws still exist, apparently!
By Alex Perry  on 
Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg
Zuck can't escape government scrutiny. Credit: Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto via Getty Images

In an era full of giant tech companies devouring smaller tech companies, the Federal Trade Commission is actually trying to stop one such acquisition.

The FTC filed a lawsuit on Wednesday to block Meta from acquiring the VR developer Within, per The Verge. Within is perhaps best known for developing Supernatural VR, a popular VR fitness app. The federal agency’s primary charge is that, in purchasing Within, Meta would be monopolizing VR fitness, given that it already owns another one of the most popular VR workout games in Beat Saber.

“Letting Meta acquire Supernatural would combine the makers of two of the most significant VR fitness apps, thereby eliminating beneficial rivalry between Meta’s Beat Saber app and Within’s Supernatural app,” the FTC’s complaint said.

It’s no secret that Meta and its CEO Mark Zuckerberg have a vested interest in dominating the VR space. The Quest 2 is inarguably the most accessible and prominent consumer headset out there, and the idea of the “metaverse” itself has been closely associated with all things Meta and Facebook over the past year. 

However, of course, Meta doesn’t see its tactics as that of a monopoly. In a lengthy statement posted to its website, the company defended itself against what it called a lawsuit based on “ideology and speculation.”

“The idea that this acquisition would lead to anticompetitive outcomes in a dynamic space with as much entry and growth as online and connected fitness is simply not credible. By attacking this deal in a 3-2 vote, the FTC is sending a chilling message to anyone who wishes to innovate in VR. We are confident that our acquisition of Within will be good for people, developers, and the VR space.”

Seeing the FTC go against a tech acquisition like this has been fairly rare in recent years. Just in the past 12 months, other deals like Microsoft’s purchase of Activision Blizzard and Sony’s absorption of Destiny developer Bungie have gone by with less overt scrutiny from the FTC. Perhaps one video game company buying another doesn’t cross as many lines as the company behind the main VR access point buying up multiple VR fitness properties, though.

Regardless of how this turns out, it is likely not how Meta wanted this week to go, with the lawsuit arriving just 24 hours after an inexplicable Quest 2 price hike.

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