In November, we informed you about Meta’s acquisition of Within, the developers of the popular VR workout game Supernatural.
The acquisition is part of Meta’s push toward the metaverse, which Mark Zuckerberg first detailed during the Facebook Connect 2021 conference keynote.
Now, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission has opened an in-depth antitrust probe of the $400 million-plus deal, according to The Information.
“Shortly after Thanksgiving, the Federal Trade Commission opened an in-depth probe of the acquisition, meaning Meta may not be able to finalize the acquisition for another year, assuming the agency doesn’t formally challenge the deal in court, causing additional delays,” writes The Information’s Josh Sisco.
This isn’t the first VR-related acquisition Meta has made, but it’s the first one to trigger this level of regulatory scrutiny. Back when Meta was still Facebook, it acquired the studio behind hit game Beat Saber, the maker of the battle royale game Population: One, the developers of the Crayta platform, as well as Sanzaru Games and Ready at Dawn.
The previous acquisitions were, however, much smaller than the Supernatural deal, which may be the main reason why they weren’t probed by the government.
It’s also possible that the probe is intended to put some weight behind FTC’s recent claim that Facebook has been a monopoly since at least 2011. FTC has been particularly critical of the acquisition of Instagram and WhatsApp, stating that the company violated federal antitrust laws.
Even if FTC eventually gives the Supernatural deal green light, the probe may cause Meta to rethink the strategy of becoming the dominant metaverse player by purchasing its individual elements.