During investigations by the United States Federal Trade Commission (FTC) into Meta’s acquisition of VR fitness game devs Within, a filing revealed that the company was initially looking to expand popular block-slashing rhythm game Beat Saber into a dedicated fitness app.
It’s been a little over a year since Meta announced its intention to acquire Within, the studio behind the VR fitness app Supernatural. In July, the FTC blocked the deal for allegedly limiting fair competition among companies in the VR fitness space. At the time, FTC Bureau of Competition Deputy Director John Newman said that Meta was “looking to buy its way to the top.”
Now, as the suit is expected to conclude by year’s end, the FTC is attempting to prove that Meta had clear intentions to enter the VR fitness market with its own solution prior to the acquisition of Within, which would show the company could have competed with its own talent and resources, but decided to buy out Within instead, thereby reducing marketplace competition.
In the ongoing process to formally kill the deal, the FTC revealed Meta was looking to expand its top-performing game Beat Saber into “a dedicated fitness app,” a Bloomberg report maintains. Beat Saber was itself the result of a separate acquisition in 2019.
According to the filing, in March 2021 the Beat Saber team presented plans internally to pivot the rhythm game into a fitness-focused app. By June 2021, efforts to transition Beat Saber were abandoned when Meta decided to acquire Within.
“Meta already has engineers with the skill set to both expand Beat Saber into fitness and to build a VR dedicated fitness app from scratch,” the filing states, maintaining that “[b]uying Within was not the only way Meta could have developed the production capabilities and expertise needed to create a premium VR fitness experience.”
Meta is set to submit an outline of its defense soon as it heads into a two-week hearing before US District Judge Edward Davila in San Jose, California. Here’s a statement from Meta regarding the process:
“As we approach next month’s hearing, we are confident the evidence will show that our acquisition of Within will be good for people, developers and the VR space, which is experiencing vibrant competition,” a Meta spokesman told Bloomberg. “As we have said from the beginning, the FTC’s case is based on ideology and speculation, not evidence. We are ready to make our case before the court.”
Judge Davila is expected to decide by the end of the year, so we’ll soon find out whether the alleged $400 million deal is officially dead in the water or not.