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Report: Meta's Horizon Worlds pivot goes all in on younger players

How you do, fellow kids?

Justin Carter, Contributing Editor

February 7, 2023

3 Min Read
Screenshot of Meta's Horizon Worlds platform.

Meta is looking to aim its Horizon Worlds metaverse towards the youths. According to a new report from the Wall Street Journal, the tech company's mixed reality world will be marketed specifically to entice the teenage and young adult crowd. 

This will all begin with a teen-specific launch for Horizon Worlds possibly slated to begin in March. That launch will see the 13-17-year-old demographic gain access to Horizon which currently only accepts users 18 years old or older.

Amongst the tech and entertainment industries, teens are a vital market that companies have longed to tap into in order to drive sales and more importantly, attention. Young adults like sharing things; it's why games like Fortnite and social media sites like TikTok or Twitter have become increasingly larger parts of society, for better or worse.

Meta is no stranger to this, since it was once one of the biggest social media hubs for teenagers a generation or two ago, and now it yearns to be that again for its larger metaverse goals. And if teens get onboard with Horizon Worlds, it may be enough to convince the developers working on it to stick with the platform. 

In a memo focused on Horizon's 2023 plans, VP Gabriel Aul discussed the importance of user retention, particularly among that 13-17 group. He reportedly said teens would eventually become "the true digital citizens of the metaverse, and have grown up seamlessly interfacing with the technology and connecting with people remotely."

“Teens are already spending time in a variety of VR experiences on Quest, and we want to ensure that we can provide them with a great experience in Horizon Worlds as well, with age-appropriate tools and protections in place,“ Meta's Joel Osbourne told the Journal. 

Meta had nothing specific to offer the Journal about such protections, but Aul's memo noted that the Horizon team was ensuring a "safe and equitable experience" for all users, particularly teens and young adults.

Can the teens be Meta's shining angel?

One of the bigger hurdles for Meta in its bid for the youths is that mixed reality isn't priced with younger consumers in mind. Presently, the company's headsets are either in the $400 or $500 range, and that's just on the low end

The metaverse itself may be starting to become more of a thing in the popular culture thanks to virtual concerts, but there are arguably less pricey metaverses for teens to spend their time in. 

Games like Fortnite and Roblox aren't just free-to-play, they're also available on nearly every game console under the sun, and even their phones. That ease of access counts for a lot, and that's not even getting into the brand crossovers and deals both those titles have secured in recent years. 

It could also just be that the metaverse may not even interest teens to begin with. With so many social platforms and games fighting for everyone's attention, it's only understandable that audiences, both young and old alike, would cut one they view as the least interesting of the bunch. 

Another thing worth noting is that parent groups and lawmakers previously pushed back against Meta's efforts to be involved with younger audiences. In 2021, the company shut down its "Instagram for Kids" plans after the site was found to be harmful for young kids, and teen girls in particular.

About the Author(s)

Justin Carter

Contributing Editor, GameDeveloper.com

A Kansas City, MO native, Justin Carter has written for numerous sites including IGN, Polygon, and SyFy Wire. In addition to Game Developer, his writing can be found at io9 over on Gizmodo. Don't ask him about how much gum he's had, because the answer will be more than he's willing to admit.

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