Meta Reality Labs Celebrates 10-Year Milestone, Has Lost $50+ Billion


Meta’s Reality Labs division is now 10 years old. And in the past five years alone, since 2019, the division — which is responsible for Meta’s metaverse, mixed reality (MR), augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), and artificial intelligence (AI) initiatives — has lost the Big Tech giant nearly $50 billion.

Still, Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg does not appear to be too concerned by the fact that the sheer amount of money the Reality Labs division has lost since its inception is big enough to land it on the Fortune 100 list — were those numbers in the black, not the red.

“Virtual reality was once the dream of science fiction. But the internet was also once a dream, and so were computers and smartphones. The future is coming, and we have a chance to build it together,” Zuckerberg said 10 years ago, in March 2014.

Meta has repeatedly mentioned during its financial earnings calls that it anticipates operating losses for the Reality Labs to “increase meaningfully year over year,” attributing the multi-billion-dollar hits to ongoing product development in AR/VR and investments aimed at expanding the ecosystem. Meta leadership stresses that Reality Lab losses are not true losses, but investments.

“I still expect this next generation of AR/VR and MR computing platforms to deliver the realistic sense presence that will be the foundation for the future of social experiences, and almost every other category of experiences as well,” Zuckerberg said.

So, 10 years on and tens of billions of dollars into the Reality Labs vision, just what has been happening in the metaverse?

Read more: 5.5G Reasons Why Meta, LG Are Teaming Up On XR Devices

Capturing the Benefits of a Next Generation Computing Platform

In the digital landscape of the metaverse, 10 years is nothing — Linden Lab, developer of one of the original virtual worlds, Second Life, was founded in 1999. That makes the Second Life platform two years older than even Facebook, Meta’s original online platform — and underscores just how long internet pioneers and digital innovators have been trying to create commercially viable spaces for end-users, including both consumers and businesses, to bridge the physical and digital worlds.

Roblox, a virtual gaming platform that boasts 70.2 million daily active users (DAUs) and over 216 million monthly active users (MAUs), represents a singular success story within virtual world building — and, just like Meta’s own Horizon’s platform, is attracting advertisers and even payments providers. For example, last October, LensCrafters launched its first virtual initiative, called LensCrafters Eye Odyssey on Roblox; while this March, Universal Music Group (UMG), Republic Records and Styngr partnered on a solution that helps music labels curate, distribute and monetize music across the Roblox platform called Boombox.

And as covered by PYMNTS, payment services provider Worldline recently introduced the Worldline Metaverse Shopping Hub on the Spatial platform, presenting an upgraded solution for merchants aiming to venture into the metaverse.

Speaking with PYMNTS last March, Sascha Münger, Worldline’s metaverse expert, noted that while it might take time for this virtual space to become the norm, it has major untapped potential to fuel another wave of payment innovation and improve customer experience.

In another development in the gaming space, said this past December that it launched a proprietary eCommerce platform that allows product placement and advertising within virtual gaming worlds like Roblox and Fortnite. Players can scan branded items, claim offers and earn points that can be redeemed for rewards.

Read also: Roblox Looks to Capture Network Effects From AI, Metaverse Headsets

The Metaverse Has Gone Mainstream — Now It Just Needs Adoption

PYMNTS Intelligence in the study “How We Will Pay Report: How Connected Devices Enable Multitasking Among Digital-First Consumers” found that 31% of consumers want virtual reality to recreate brick-and-mortar shopping experiences.

And while metaverse platforms may not have nearly the same degree of daily, or even monthly, active users as other digital and social platforms, the concept of VR and MR worlds have certainly gone mainstream in the time since Meta’s Reality Labs divisions first opened for business.

Apple’s Vision Pro headset made waves with the news that over half (52%) of the apps on its platform are paid downloads, a number that dwarfs the 5% of apps on the broader Apple app store that are monetized at the moment of download.

Among those apps on the Apple Vision Pro platform include a J.Crew Virtual Closet and Mytheresa: Luxury Experience that let shoppers get live consultations and share looks with friends; a Lowe’s app that lets customers virtually plan a kitchen renovation or other home redesign; and a Max app that lets fans of “Game of Thrones” and “House of the Dragon” transform their space into a virtual version of the sets.

As PYMNTS reported Thursday (April 4), the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) is monitoring video games and virtual worlds to ensure their compliance with federal consumer financial protection laws.

For more information on virtual worlds, the PYMNTS Intelligence report “Enter the Metaverse: The Next Frontier of Digital Commerce” shows how innovators are using payments to make the most of the future-fit opportunity.