I absolutely adore my Meta Quest 2 VR headset (even though its new name is kinda dumb); the incredible VR experiences it offers are unlike anything else in gaming. Yet despite my fondness for the system I’m yet to fall in love with the direction Meta is taking its VR headsets – I’ve seen how wonderful the metaverse could be but right now I’m utterly bored by it.
Ahead of its launch in the UK a few weeks ago, I had the chance to try out Horizon Worlds – Meta’s budding metaverse platform – with a crew of Meta representatives. At first, I was intrigued. While our avatars were a little lifeless our time together was much more enjoyable than a Zoom call, the worlds that players had created were pretty neat, and the in-built safety features did a fine job of answering my online harassment concerns.
After we finished chatting I wrote about the then-upcoming announcement. I vowed then to return to Horizon Worlds, finish my world and create an online space for my Quest-wearing friends to hang out. At the time of writing, I’m yet to start my project.
Every time I don my Quest headset my cursor brushes past Horizon Worlds for the slew of other options at my disposal, like the epic new magical shooter Wands Alliances, or the ol’ reliable Walkabout Mini Golf.
Why meet in virtual reality?
Part-game, part-VR chat room, a metaverse like Horizon Worlds offers VR headset users a space to hang out just like they would in real life. There are venues to watch (sometimes terrible) concerts, arcades to visit and compete for high scores, and desert islands to relax on while waves ebb and flow in the background.
That’s just the basic elements though. A more sophisticated metaverse would steadily mimic much of our real-world – introducing aspects like a digital economy – while also blending in the best parts of being digital – such as being able to quickly drift between spaces.
While likely to never trump real life, these virtual spaces are already becoming meaningful to many people, as I learned during my chat with We Met in Virtual Reality director Joe Hunting.
His film explained that VR Chat’s virtual space allows like-minded individuals to find each other, form genuine friendships, and even start romantic relationships free from the restriction of geography. Members of the queer community can find a safe digital space to express who they really are, and disabled people and allies can collaborate to make VR more accessible and welcoming – such as starting a virtual American Sign Language school to expand the language’s reach.
Looking beyond the Horizon
Yet despite seeing the awesome potential in a metaverse like Horizon Worlds, I never want to log into it: primarily because it's fairly limited in what it has to offer right now.
Thanks to its relatively small user base – Horizon Worlds is restricted to Quest 2 users in the US, UK, and Canada – the experiences it offers are yet to top my favorite games on the Quest Store. If I want to hang out with friends in VR we can just load into a more engaging multiplayer game.
And if I want to make new digital friends, Horizon Worlds doesn't feel like the place to do that. Communities are generally managed off-platform, meaning I’d have to find a Facebook or Discord group before heading back into VR. And once we've agreed to hang out in VR, why would we opt for Horizon Worlds as our meetup spot when there are better options?
Some of my gripes could soon be fixed. While the worlds function as adverts for real-world products and services, companies like car manufacturer Mini and music brand Fender are starting to create in Horizon Worlds. By investing in these spaces, businesses could help to construct better VR worlds – ones made not by hobbyists with limited time but by professionals that can dedicate themselves to the project just like a regular games studio.
Plus, with Meta recently expanding Horizon Worlds to the UK, it’s only a matter of time before new regions gain access. As the player base expands, Horizon World’s scope and pool of creators will too.
I look forward to the day Horizon Worlds is a game I want to play, but that’s not today. For now, I’ll stick to the other great VR games the Quest 2 has to offer.
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Hamish is a Senior Staff Writer for TechRadar and you’ll see his name appearing on articles across nearly every topic on the site from smart home deals to speaker reviews to graphics card news and everything in between. He uses his broad range of knowledge to help explain the latest gadgets and if they’re a must-buy or a fad fueled by hype. Though his specialty is writing about everything going on in the world of virtual reality and augmented reality.