The US regulator FTC has filed an antitrust suit against Meta in an effort to prevent Facebook’s parent company from buying Within.
The acquisition of Within – the maker of the virtual reality app Supernatural – announced by Meta in October is being called into question as the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) files an antitrust lawsuit. According to the US regulator’s indictment, an acquisition would “significantly restrict competition or create a monopoly in the market for specialty VR fitness apps and the broader relevant market for VR fitness apps.”
Among other things, FTC overlaps with previous Meta acquisitions, such as Beat Games, which was acquired in 2019. If Meta were also to acquire Within, FTC would see a serious competition problem. In addition, meta has made some other VR-related acquisitions in the past two years, such as Sanzaru Games, Ready at Dawn, Twisted Pixel, Downpour Interactive, and BigBox VR. The acquisition of Within, therefore, seems to be the proverbial straw for FTC.
The regulator sees a problem that extends beyond VR fitness apps. In the official indictment, we read in black and white that if this takeover were to go through, Meta would be one step closer to its ultimate goal of owning the entire metaverse.
The FTC also refers in that document to the recent rebranding of Facebook to Meta and sees it as evidence “that the company has set its sights on building and ultimately controlling a VR metaverse.” The lawsuit is the FTC’s first antitrust action brought under the leadership of Chairman Lina Khan, who has previously spoken out strongly against the consolidation of major tech companies.
Meta argues that the FTC’s case is “based on ideology and speculation, not evidence.” The company disputes that the Within acquisition would have an anti-competitive effect. Blocking the acquisition would “send a chilling message to anyone looking to innovate in VR,” it said.