Facebook’s parent company is under growing pressure to focus less on the metaverse – as investors warn it is an experimental bet causing “supersized and terrifying losses”.
The tech giant changed its name to Meta last year under plans to build a virtual world that would be used by millions of people.
But Mark Zuckerberg’s metaverse has been beset by technical problems, with user numbers far below the targets set by executives.
The latest figures show Reality Labs, the division building the metaverse, lost £3.16bn between July and September – compared with £2.27bn in the same period a year earlier.
Investors rushed to dump Meta’s stock after the company warned that losses linked to the metaverse “will grow significantly” next year.
When asked why his company is focused on experimental bets, Zuckerberg said: “It would be a mistake for us to not focus on any of these areas that will be fundamentally important to our future.”
But analysts have said that the metaverse “feels like one big gamble” – especially given the current economic crisis – and fear the road ahead will be “long and painful”.
The virtual reality headsets required to get the best experience in Meta’s virtual world are pricy. One costs £1,300 – putting it out of the reach of many consumers.
Paolo Pescatore from PP Foresight said: “People are not rushing out of their seats to buy a VR headset or even watch 360-degree videos … The new device still feels like an expensive toy.”
Earlier this week, a fund that invests in Meta called on the company to slash its yearly investment in the metaverse from $10 billion to $5 billion.
Altimeter Capital’s CEO, Brad Gerstner, warned: “Meta has drifted into the land of excess – too many people, too many ideas, too little urgency.
“This lack of focus and fitness is obscured when growth is easy but deadly when growth slows and technology changes.”
Meanwhile, Insider Intelligence analyst Debra Aho Williamson has warned that Meta needs to turn its business around – focusing less on the metaverse and more on fixing its core business.
“As Facebook Inc it was a revolutionary company that changed the way people communicate and the way marketers interact with consumers. Today it’s no longer that innovative groundbreaker.”
Meta – which owns Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp – has other clouds on the horizon as it battles falling advertising sales and stiff competition from TikTok.
Revenue in the third quarter fell for a second consecutive time to £23.83bn.
Meta’s share price is in danger of falling to its lowest level in six years – and the stock has plunged by 61.6% since the year began.