Meta wants to turn Horizon Worlds into a place for the cool kids

Teens in the U.S. and Canada will soon be able to enter the Facebook owner's nascent metaverse.

Meta has confirmed it wants to usher teenagers into the metaverse by opening up Horizon Worlds to users aged from 13 to 17.

As previously suggested, the company will begin admitting teenagers in the United States and Canada into Horizon Worlds in the coming weeks so they can "explore immersive worlds, play games like Arena Clash and Giant Mini Paddle Golf, enjoy concerts" and generally frolic in the Facebook owner's version of a metaverse.

Notably, Meta said it will be ensuring younger users in Horizon Worlds are protected by implementing a "robust set of age-appropriate protections and safety defaults." The company has also expanded its VR parental supervision tools to include Horizon Worlds to make it easier for parents and guardians to manage what their kids experience.

"Teens have already become fans of popular virtual experiences across the industry—this makes it crucial that we build age-appropriate, safe, and positive experiences for them in VR. Doing so is core to our responsible innovation principles and our commitment to building safer experiences for young people," added Meta in a blog post, which contains more details about specific tools and controls.

"That's why we invested in a number of new safety features including back-end protections and parental supervision tools that allows parents and teens to help manage the experience before making Worlds available to this age group. We’re rolling out to teens slowly, so that we can carefully examine usage and are taking a phased approach before expanding more broadly."

A new horizon for younger players?

Until now, only those aged 18 and over were allowed to experience the heady delights of Horizon Worlds, but Meta has indicated it makes sense to usher in teens because the Meta Quest is rated 13+.

Of course, the company's Reality Labs division (which comprises its AR and VR businesses) has also been hemorrhaging cash–losing $13.7 billion in 2022 alone–and Meta needs to do something to turn that around.

It's no secret that teens enjoy "metaverse" experiences such as Fortnite and Roblox, both of which have expanded beyond their video game roots by hosting virtual events such as concerts, but it remains to be seen whether Horizon Worlds can provide an experience that feels as compelling to younger players.

Meta is currently pitching Horizon Worlds as a "virtual universe with thousands of experiences," but it would be fair to say the app lacks the focus of its counterparts, and despite being free, also requires the use of a (not exactly inexpensive) Meta Quest headset.

There's only a week to go until Meta announces its Q1 2023 earnings report, and it'll be interesting to see how Reality Labs is holding up with the company committing to a "year of efficiency" that has resulted in multiple rounds of layoffs.

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