The FTC is investigating Meta’s acquisitions in the virtual reality sector

The FTC is investigating Meta's acquisitions in the virtual reality sector

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the American body in charge of consumer protection and antitrust, is starting to take an interest in the activities of Meta (ex-Facebook) in the virtual reality sector. The specialized media The Information reports this December 17 that the agency has opened an investigation into the recently announced acquisition of Within, which publishes the Supernatural sports application.

Under the leadership of its new president Lina Khan, the FTC has already tackled the company’s main activity: social networks. She filed a complaint in August whose avowed objective is the split or resale of Instagram and WhatsApp. This action is unprecedented because these two companies were bought out in 2012 and 2014, without raising any objections at the time. Both products have also been heavily developed by Meta since then.

Meta invests heavily in these technologies
It is different for virtual and augmented reality. By paying attention to it, the FTC is no longer looking at the past but at the present and the future. Meta has never hidden its ambition to establish itself as a leader in this sector, which it perceived in 2014 as the computing platform of the future, in the “post-smartphone” era. A vision that is not widely shared, and which especially has not convinced the other tech giants to invest colossal sums in it as Mark Zuckerberg’s company does.

As a result, Meta dominates the virtual reality entertainment market today, despite the efforts of competitors such as Sony (whose next generation of VR headset is long overdue), Valve or HTC. Within is also the sixth takeover publicly announced by Meta in virtual reality for two years. It follows Beat Games, Ready at Dawn, Sanzaru Games, Downpour Interactive and BigBox VR.

Virtual reality, a market to watch
The previous transactions were too low in amount to merit investigation, according to The Information. On the other hand, Within was reportedly bought out for $400 million, a considerable sum given the size of the market and the relative youth of Supernatural, which was released in 2020. The agency therefore carried out an in-depth study at the end of November, one month after the announcement of the takeover.

Even if, in the best case scenario, she does not sue Meta to have the deal canceled, it could push the acquisition back by almost a year. A decisive deadline for Meta, because other major players are about to enter the race, including a certain Apple. Lina Khan also indicated that virtual reality is a sector to be monitored precisely because “powerful companies” are interested in it.

Just like its competitors Google, Apple, Amazon or Microsoft, Meta is now under strong pressure from regulators around the world, and not only in the United States. Recently, it was the British competition authority that ruled against him, ruling that the acquisition of Giphy made in 2020 was harmful to the competition. So Meta will have to resell it. Generally speaking, it seems that the era of buyouts galore is definitely over

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