FTC objects to Meta purchase of Within
US regulator sues to block deal from going through, accuses Facebook parent of "trying to buy its way to the top"
Meta's string of VR acquisitions has hit a snag, as the Federal Trade Commission today announced it wants to block the Facebook parent company and CEO Mark Zuckerberg from acquiring Within, the maker of the VR fitness app Supernatural.
"Instead of competing on the merits, Meta is trying to buy its way to the top," FTC Bureau of Competition deputy director John Newman said. "Meta already owns a best-selling virtual reality fitness app, and it had the capabilities to compete even more closely with Within's popular Supernatural app. But Meta chose to buy market position instead of earning it on the merits. This is an illegal acquisition, and we will pursue all appropriate relief."
The FTC noted that Meta already owns the top-selling VR device in the Meta Quest and a leading storefront for VR apps in Quest Store, and a stable of the most successful VR developers including Beat Games, and "one of the best-selling apps of all time" in Beat Saber. All of those properties can be traced back to acquisitions made by Meta/Facebook, dating back to the 2014 acquisition of Oculus for $2 billion.
The regulator claims that even Meta's attempt to acquire Within could have dampened competition in the VR fitness app market, and acquiring the company would further reduce what competition exists between Supernatural and Beat Saber.
The Commission voted 3-2 to pursue a preliminary injunction against Meta to block the acquisition, and has filed its complaint in the US District Court for the Northern District of California.
A Meta spokesperson responded to the news, saying, "The FTC's case is based on ideology and speculation, not evidence. The idea that this acquisition would lead to anticompetitive outcomes in a dynamic space with as much entry and growth as online and connected fitness is simply not credible. By attacking this deal in a 3-2 vote, the FTC is sending a chilling message to anyone who wishes to innovate in VR. We are confident that our acquisition of Within will be good for people, developers, and the VR space."
The acquisition had originally been announced around the time of Meta's name change from Facebook last October, with the FTC launching its investigation into the deal late last year.
Meta yesterday announced that it would be raising prices on the Meta Quest headset in order to fund its continued investment in VR.