Meta, formerly Facebook, is firmly in the FTC’s crosshairs over its various acquisitions that the agency believes may have been made to dominate the space and eliminate competition. According to The Information, one of the purchases the Federal Trade Commission is looking into is its $400 million deal to acquire Within, the developer of popular virtual reality workout app Supernatural for the Oculus platform.
The agency reportedly opened a probe into the purchase after Thanksgiving, almost a month after the companies announced the acquisition back in October. If the report is true — neither the FTC nor the companies confirmed the regulatory review to the publication — then Within and Meta wouldn’t be able to finalize the deal for another year. It could take even longer than that if the agency challenges it in court.
Within wasn’t the only VR app developer that Meta had acquired, but the others were apparently too small to be investigated. VR fitness apps, like at-home workout equipment, soared in popularity during the lockdown, and Supernatural quickly became popular after its launch in April 2020. As The Information notes, one of the FTC’s possible lines of inquiry is whether Meta was planning to develop a VR workout app of its own. It will take Meta less time to snap up an existing product than make one of its own, after all.
Meta boss Mark Zuckerberg famously said in the past that “it’s better to buy than to compete,” with regards to Facebook’s Instagram acquisition. The FTC recently filed new antitrust charges against the company, accusing it of using its Instagram and WhatsApp acquisitions in 2012 and 2014 to secure its position in the market. Meta is still also facing an investigation over its reported $400 million Giphy purchase in 2020.