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Meta furious by charging for VR apps

in great shape , BURLINGAME, CALIFORNIA – MAY 04: META employee Ryan Carter (L) helps a member of the media with an Oculus virtual reality headset demonstration during a media preview of the new META store on May 04, 2022 in Burlingame, Calif. Meta is set to open its first physical retail store on May 9. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Meta is facing a growing backlash for charges levied on apps built for its virtual reality headsets, as developers complain about business terms set around futuristic devices that the company expects to generate a multibillion- Dollar will help create consumer market.

The Facebook parent has promised to spend $10 billion a year over the next decade on “Metaverse,” a much-hyped concept that depicts a giant virtual world full of avatars.

The investment is driven by a desire to own the next computing platform and avoid being bogged down by the rules set by Big Tech rivals, as Apple and Google have done with their respective mobile app stores.

Apple is expected to enter the market earlier this year by releasing a set of augmented reality glasses, while Microsoft is developing services using its HoloLens virtual reality headset.

But several developers told the Financial Times to their dismay that Meta, which is seen as an early lead in a nascent market, has pushed for a charging model for its VR app store that exists on smartphones today. . This is despite strong criticism from Meta chief Mark Zuckerberg in the past of charging policies on the current mobile app store.

“Don’t confuse marketing with reality – choosing Apple is good marketing. But that doesn’t mean Meta won’t work exactly the same way,” said Seth Siegel, global head of AI and cyber security at Infosys Consulting. There’s no incentive to get better.”

The “Quest Store” for Meta’s Quest 2, which is by far the most popular VR headset on the market, takes 30 percent off digital purchases and 15-30 percent on subscriptions, similar to the fees charged by Apple and Android. Is.

“There are unquestionably services provided—they build amazing hardware and provide store services,” said Daniel Spall, chief executive of Realities.io, an immersive reality start-up behind VR games. secret place,

“But the problem is, it seems like everyone agrees on this 30 percent and that is what stuck on us. There doesn’t seem to be any competition. The Chinese companies that come with the headset are also similar. Why would they change it?”

Meta defended its policies, pointing out that unlike iPhone owners, Quest users can install apps outside their official stores, or use App Lab, through SideQuest, a third-party app store. , its less restrictive, more experimental App Store.

“We want to foster choice and competition in the VR ecosystem,” said Meta. “And it is working – our efforts have produced a material financial return for developers: as we announced earlier this year, the Meta Quest store spent more than $1 billion on games and apps. Has gone.”

Developers welcome these options but say their impact is limited. According to Sensor Tower, Sidequest has only been downloaded 396,000 times, compared to 19 million for the Oculus app. Meanwhile, App Lab still takes 30 percent off purchases.

Zuckerberg has previously complained of Apple’s “monopoly rent” and “unique stranglehold as a gatekeeper on what’s found on the phone” in reference to the App Store’s approval and curation processes.

This led Apple to accuse Meta of “hypocrisy” when Oculus headset maker announced in April that Horizon World, its “social VR experience,” would charge a 17.5 percent “platform fee” on top of its 30 percent tax on digital purchases.

Apple said: “It shows that when they want to use Apple’s platform for free, they happily take it from creators and small businesses who use it themselves.”

Until Apple and others enter the VR market in a more concrete way, developers also say the meta has the potential to play Kingmaker by fast-tracking some and delaying others.

Some of the titles have been moved to its experimental App Lab store, while some of the best titles – fitness games Beatsaber And divineFor example- has been acquired by Meta.

Another point of friction with developers is Meta’s change in how “open” its VR app store will be.

Chris Pruett, Meta’s director of content ecosystem, has said that the VR team has been engaged in “a knockdown, drag-out debate for years” as to whether the App Store should allow developers to upload their own content with relatively few restrictions, Or whether the app should be “curated” by the company with far more checks – similar to Apple’s approach to its mobile app store.

Pruett said Meta found that lax standards resulted in too many users becoming frustrated with low-quality content, so the company opted to take on the role of gatekeeper. But developers said the resulting bottlenecks could be a lack of transparency.

“Getting something on the Quest Store is painful,” said Liron Bentovim, chief executive of Glimpse Group, an immersive experiences group. “It’s much worse than you can find at the Apple or Android Store.”

Chief Information Officer Sebastian Gottslich said the Metaverse platform room for the 3D event made it to the Quest store after nine months, while the same process with Apple took less than two weeks.

Devon Copley, chief executive of virtual meeting company Avatour, said that he had posted questions to support to indie developer message boards that “simply go completely unanswered.”

Developer relations were “completely AWOL” in Meta, Copley said. “It’s really disappointing because the hardware development is amazing, the hardware platform is fantastic, and they are doing great things. But their developer engagement is a travesty.”

© 2022 The Financial Times Ltd. All rights reserved. Not to be redistributed, copied or modified in any way.

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