Meta’s newest update to Horizon Worlds, its 3D social network, adds some useful changes, but while reading the v133 patch notes, I chuckled more than once because of things Meta probably didn’t intend to be funny.
Arguably the biggest addition is a new “time spent” feature. The dashboard shows you how much time you’ve put into Horizon Worlds over seven days and how that time is divided between playing in VR and on web / mobile.
We should be cognizant of how much time we’re spending staring at screens. But given Meta has been struggling to keep Horizon Worlds users, how many people will be taking advantage of the time spent tracker? Maybe Meta should be spending a little more time getting more people to actually spend time in the app instead of showing them how little time they’re currently in it.
Meta has another change that’s more directly related to low player counts: when you’re browsing “worlds” in the app (Meta’s terminology for experiences you can visit) and a world has no concurrent players, Meta won’t show the player count on the card for that world. I get why Meta is doing this; if I know an experience doesn’t have anyone in it, why would I want to play it? But not seeing a number isn’t exactly encouraging, either.
Another new feature might genuinely be useful, but it’s mostly because it fixes the sometimes-poor etiquette of other players. When exploring experiences in Horizon Worlds, it’s not uncommon to hear other people’s microphones pick up ambient sounds around them, which can be distracting and annoying. Thankfully, you can mute other players, but to help particularly noisy people get the hint — which, based on my time with Horizon Worlds, a lot of people may need — Meta is testing a notification that tells you if a lot of other people have muted you.
Despite the low player counts, Meta keeps investing in Horizon Worlds, including launching a surprisingly decent expansion to web and mobile and pushing Super Rumble, an in-Horizon arena shooter. These are good steps forward; it’s much easier to jump into Horizon Worlds on non-VR devices, and Super Rumble, even if it’s not my cup of tea, shows that it’s possible to make somewhat compelling experiences in the app.
Other metaverse platforms like Roblox and Fortnite are still dramatically more popular than Horizon Worlds, but the incremental improvements to Horizon Worlds are nice all the same.