Only adults 18 and older can sign up for Meta’s Horizon Worlds at the moment, but according to The Wall Street Journal, that could change very, very soon. Meta is reportedly opening up its virtual reality social experience to younger players aged 13 to 17 as soon as this March as part of its efforts to grow Horizon’s numbers and improve user retention. The Journal says it saw the information in a memo entitled “Horizon 2023 Goals and Strategy” in which Gabriel Aul, Meta’s VP for the VR experience, outlined its goals for the first half of 2023.
In the memo, Aul reportedly wrote that these younger users are the “true digital citizens of the metaverse” and that Meta needs to ensure that it serves them for Horizon to succeed. Meta spokesperson Joe Osborne told the publication that “[t]eens are already spending time in a variety of VR experiences on Quest, and [the company wants] to ensure that [it] can provide them with a great experience in Horizon Worlds as well, with age-appropriate tools and protections in place.”
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Osborn didn’t say what the experience will offer in the way of protecting young users. In 2021, The Journal reported that the company’s own researchers found Instagram “harmful for a sizable percentage” of teens, particularly teenage girls. Meta paused its work on an Instagram for Kids as a result, and it has also launched a bunch of teen safety features for the app since then. It also automatically limited triggering or sensitive content for new users under 16.
In addition to welcoming younger teens to Horizon, Meta is aiming to grow the game’s monthly active users to 500,000 from 200,000 within the first half of the year. Perhaps more importantly at this point in time, it’s targeting a retention rate of 20 percent. Apparently, Horizon had an 11 percent retention rate in January, which means only one in nine users returned to the experience the following month. Meta is hoping to achieve those goals by improving the service’s reliability and performance and getting rid of bugs that may affect people’s enjoyment.
The company is aiming to release 20 new Horizon experiences built by third-party studios in an effort to win more people over, as well. Plus, it’s apparently hoping to make the VR game a lot more accessible by rolling out a web version for mobile and desktopf by June. Meta teased the web version of the experience in the past, but the company missed its initial launch target last year. This year, the company is not only hoping to launch Horizon’s web version within the next few months, it’s also looking to have as many as 150,000 monthly cross-screen Horizon users in the first half of 2023.