Meta’s VR social network Horizon Worlds — the company’s flagship “metaverse” app — is suffering from too many quality issues and is barely used by the group of employees building it, according to internal memos obtained by The Verge.
In one of the memos to employees dated September 15th, Meta’s VP of Metaverse, Vishal Shah, said the team would remain in a “quality lockdown” for the rest of the year to “ensure that we fix our quality gaps and performance issues before we open up Horizon to more users.”
Horizon Worlds lets people build and interact in virtual worlds as legless avatars, sort of like Roblox meets Minecraft. It’s a key initiative following CEO Mark Zuckerberg rebranding of Facebook to Meta; the company is spending billions per year to build his vision of the metaverse. The multiplayer platform was released on Meta’s Quest headset in December of last year. It hit 300,000 users earlier this year and is supposed to be coming to mobile and desktop via a web version sometime soon, though Vishal’s memos imply a web launch could be pushed back.
“Simply put, for an experience to become delightful and retentive, it must first be usable and well crafted.”
“Since launching late last year, we have seen that the core thesis of Horizon Worlds — a synchronous social network where creators can build engaging worlds — is strong,” Shah wrote in a memo last month. “But currently feedback from our creators, users, playtesters, and many of us on the team is that the aggregate weight of papercuts, stability issues, and bugs is making it too hard for our community to experience the magic of Horizon. Simply put, for an experience to become delightful and retentive, it must first be usable and well crafted.”
Though Meta has teased its work on more lifelike avatars, the current quality of Horizon’s graphics pales in comparison to some of its non-VR competitors like Fortnite. Zuckerberg himself was recently memeified after he posted a screenshot of his Horizon avatar to celebrate the launch of Horizon for Quest users in France and Spain. He quickly posted a follow-up image of a more advanced avatar, saying he would share “major updates to Horizon and avatar graphics” at the company’s annual Connect conference which is scheduled for October 11th.
“The simple truth is, if we don’t love it, how can we expect our users to love it?”
A key issue with Horizon’s development to date, according to Shah’s internal memos, is that the people building it inside Meta appear to not be using it that much. “For many of us, we don’t spend that much time in Horizon and our dogfooding dashboards show this pretty clearly,” he wrote to employees on September 15th. “Why is that? Why don’t we love the product we’ve built so much that we use it all the time? The simple truth is, if we don’t love it, how can we expect our users to love it?”
In a follow-up memo dated September 30th, Shah said that employees still weren’t using Horizon enough, writing that a plan was being made to “hold managers accountable” for having their teams use Horizon at least once a week. “Everyone in this organization should make it their mission to fall in love with Horizon Worlds. You can’t do that without using it. Get in there. Organize times to do it with your colleagues or friends, in both internal builds but also the public build so you can interact with our community.”
He went on to call out specific issues with Horizon, writing that “our onboarding experience is confusing and frustrating for users” and that the team needed to “introduce new users to top-notch worlds that will ensure their first visit is a success.”
Shah said the teams working on Horizon needed to collaborate better together and expect more changes to come. “Today, we are not operating with enough flexibility,” his memo reads. “I want to be clear on this point. We are working on a product that has not found product market fit. If you are on Horizon, I need you to fully embrace ambiguity and change.”
He said that employees working on Horizon will their targets for growing users in VR lowered and that the coming 2D version of Horizon for web wouldn’t likely have a user target but instead a “high quality bar.”
In a statement shared with The Verge, Meta spokesperson Ashley Zandy said the company is “confident that the metaverse is the future of computing and that it should be built around people.” She said the company is “always making quality improvements and acting on the feedback from our community of creators. This is a multiyear journey, and we’re going to keep making what we build better.”