Update 4/20: Looks like this Business Insider report was true for all but two major Meta studios: Onward developer Downpour Interactive, and Echo VR developer Ready at Dawn. Both studios reportedly lost several employees in the layoff, with some remaining employees noting that roughly 1/3 of the employees were laid off on 4/19.
Once again, we're faced with the sad news that thousands of Meta employees are losing their jobs. We expected this after Mark Zuckerberg, Meta's CEO, announced subsequent layoffs would be coming soon but one thing reportedly happened today that we didn't expect: Meta began to pivot focus away from the Metaverse and back to VR gaming.
As Business Insider reports, despite Meta laying off 4,000 people today, the gaming division of Reality Labs is now seen as "safe" for workers and will not see layoffs for the time being. Currently, Meta's gaming division includes nearly one dozen developers housed under the Oculus Studios label and have made some of the best Quest 2 games.
Furthermore, the report says that "many projects and teams" within Reality Labs will be dissolved but, surprisingly, the gaming teams will actually be allowed to hire some roles.
While the report doesn't specifically say that Meta is canning its Horizon Worlds metaverse concept, reading between the lines more than just suggests the company is shifting away from the metaverse conversation for a while; it's realizing that the Quest is more popular as a gaming console than a metaverse portal.
San Andreas, here we come
Roughly one month ago, we saw the announcement that Meta was increasing investment into its publishing arm — now known as Oculus Publishing — and would fund over 150 new gaming projects over the next several years.
In addition to that, we're expecting 41 new apps and games from Meta's first-party studios to arrive alongside the Meta Quest 3 when it launches this Fall. While this previously showed an increased interest in gaming development, this report from Business Insider shows that the company isn't just increasing development investment. Meta is actually pivoting to what's become the most popular reason to use a Quest headset.
Just this week, we learned that millions of Quest 2 gamers use their headset each month accounting for between 35-40 percent of the full 20 million install base. It's the first time we've ever seen this metric on Meta's VR platform and it bodes well for the future of VR as a continually-viable gaming medium.
Meta noted at the end of 2022 that one in three games on the Quest store make millions in revenue and, more recently, that games like Beat Saber have made around $250 million in revenue since launching on Quest.
The report indicates that Meta is now working toward getting more major game franchises on the headset in the vein of Resident Evil 4 VR which boasts both substantial critical and commercial success. We have our own wishlist of major games we'd like to see on Quest and it's entirely possible that some could make it after this major shift.
The report specifically name-dropped franchises like Grand Theft Auto and Call of Duty, the former was announced for Quest nearly two years ago but hasn't been mentioned since.
Assassin's Creed VR is still listed as an upcoming Quest game but it, too, hasn't been publicly mentioned in several years. Ubisoft canceled Splinter Cell VR sometime after announcing it but this new push from Meta could very well resurrect some of these major projects along with other new ones.
The shift to a gaming focus coincides with the layoffs because investors have been clamoring for a "killer app" for the Metaverse ever since Meta changed company names from Facebook. According to the source, Zuckerberg and others at Meta now believe that gaming is that killer app.
Great VR gaming is here and it's never been so easy (or so affordable). Get the Meta Quest 2 and forget everything you thought about VR before.
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