While Mark Zuckerberg has been excitedly sharing insights and developments on Horizon Worlds, their own metaverse, it’s only come to reveal how much internal struggle has been happening behind the scenes.
In fact, for what it’s essentially a variation of an MMO (Massive Multiplayer Online) video game, Horizon Worlds isn’t even checking the most basic boxes for a video game to be fun and viable, let alone playable.
Last month Zuckerberg shared a disappointing screenshot of Horizon Worlds that caught a lot of flack. It was meant to celebrate that Horizon Worlds would be available in France and Spain, but instead, it showed an ugly avatar of Zuckerberg himself standing in a barren-looking world. He has since shared that the game will be receiving graphical improvements.
But since then, despite efforts to get people more excited about Horizon Worlds, it’s looking more and more like the reveal happened way sooner than it should have.
For one, an internal leak suggests that not even company staff has been using the metaverse for anything. The report shows that an email was addressed to staff and encouraged them to organize a time to meet colleagues in the metaverse as a way to “fall in love” with it.
Even stranger is that Zuckerberg shared in February that Horizon Worlds had 300,000 active users, which these days is looking like a hugely inflated number past that initial window. For one, Horizon Worlds is only available in select regions via invitation only, either through mobile devices or with the Oculus Quest.
For the sake of comparison, the most-played game on the popular PC platform Steam is CS:GO with over 700,000 concurrent users. This would place Horizon Worlds in the top 10 most-played games, which is obviously far from the truth. The number Zuckerberg shared probably refers to the number of users that registered, not really the number of active players – but that’s hard to know for sure because Meta hasn’t shared any more numbers since.
Meta is pushing this to be mainly a VR experience, but the price of entry is quite steep. The Meta Quest costs around $399 (almost as much as a current-gen gaming console) and their recently unveiled Quest Pro, a more advanced variation, costs $1499. Reviews show that the device is quite powerful and impressive, but spending that much only to experience Horizon Worlds seems like a dubious bet at best. Most people don’t even understand what you’re supposed to do in Horizon Worlds.
The latest blow to this whole thing is probably one of the funniest:
Zuckerberg took to Facebook to announce that Horizon World avatars would finally be getting legs. In case you didn’t know, the avatars you see in the game would just “hover” with a bust and arms, but no legs.
But before people could get too excited, it was revealed that the preview Zuckerberg shared was actually a pre-recorded render done with motion capture. This means it was not actually a build of the game at all, just something they recorded separately to show “what’s to come.” (Source: Twitter)
This set off a lot of alarms for anyone that follows gaming discourse, since many game publishers have been known to show off pre-rendered material with a lot of touch-ups when they reveal a game at E3, for example, only for the actual game to release years later looking much worse. Many examples of this can be found if you look up “release vs. E3” on YouTube.
Between the alleged “graphics update” and now the “legs update”, or even the graphical improvements a developer has shared on Twitter, it’s looking like all of these are nothing but pre-rendered concepts that may or may not be in-engine. In other words, Meta is promising a lot, but Horizon Worlds’ current state betrays their ambitions.
Horizon Worlds is suffering from a lack of focus already (what will it be used for?) but Zuckerberg clearly revealed this product far sooner than he should have. Now Meta is struggling to figure out basic features, such as how the game looks, let alone what you’re supposed to do with it.
There’s a lot of money riding on the metaverse idea, so it remains to be seen if Meta will be able to achieve a version of Horizon Worlds that is playable and monetizable. At the moment, it looks like an MMO with an expensive price of entry, with nothing to do, that no one wants to play – not even the people that are making it.