Meta’s Horizon Worlds has been a dud. Now the company is hoping to open up its metaverse to teenagers

February 7, 2023, 4:44 PM UTC
The Horizon Worlds logo displayed on a smartphone with the Meta Platforms logo in the background.
Meta is reportedly planning to open Horizon Worlds up to teens.
Rafael Henrique/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Horizon Worlds hasn’t exactly taken the real world by storm.

Now, Meta’s flagship metaverse app is hoping to widen its audience, welcoming teens as young as 13 years old, reports the Wall Street Journal. That represents a big shift for the company, which previously made the app available only to people 18 and up.

“Today our competitors are doing a much better job meeting the unique needs of these cohorts,” said Gabriel Aul, vice president of Horizon, in an internal memo. “For Horizon to succeed we need to ensure that we serve this cohort first and foremost.”

The move could happen as soon as next month, the Journal reports.

It’s a risky move. Last year, corporate accountability group SumOfUs said Meta’s VR platforms (Horizon Worlds and Horizon Venues) were rife with many of the same problems found in more traditional social media outlets, including misogynistic, homophobic, and racist comments; inaction against offenders; and the added horrors of virtual groping. (The company responded by introducing the “personal boundary” feature, which is designed to keep others from violating your avatar’s personal space.)

Meta has continued to sink money into its metaverse initiative, last year spending $15.9 billion on its Reality Labs division, which makes both the hardware and software for the virtual worlds.

Despite that, people who have spent time in Horizons haven’t stuck around, and even Meta employees aren’t using it. The founder of Oculus, who sold his VR startup to Meta in 2014, has lambasted Horizons, saying, “I don’t think it’s a good product.”

At present, Horizons saw a peak of about 200,000 active users in late December, says the Journal. It’s hoping to boost that to 500,000 for the first half of the year and average 1 million by the end of the year.

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