FTC Seeks to Block Meta’s Acquisition of VR Fitness App Company

The US Federal Trade Commission said Wednesday that it’s looking to block Facebook parent company Meta’s acquisition of Within Unlimited, a company that makes a virtual reality fitness app, citing Meta’s “virtual reality empire.”

“The agency alleges that Meta and [Meta CEO Mark] Zuckerberg are planning to expand Meta’s virtual reality empire with this attempt to illegally acquire a dedicated fitness app that proves the value of virtual reality to users,” the FTC said in a release.

John Newman, deputy director of the FTC’s Bureau of Competition, alleged that Meta “had the capabilities to compete even more closely with Within’s popular Supernatural app … [but] chose to buy market position instead of earning it on the merits.”

Meta had announced its acquisition of the fitness subscription service Supernatural, which is made by Within Unlimited, in October last year. The Supernatural service and app connects with a user’s Apple Watch to track heart rate during workouts, much like Apple Fitness Plus. Supernatural, which uses video avatars of instructors in combination with motion-tracked workout routines (boxing was just added), sometimes feels like a ramped-up fitness version of the VR game Beat Saber.

“The idea that this acquisition would lead to anticompetitive outcomes in a dynamic space with as much entry and growth as online and connected fitness is simply not credible,” a Meta spokesperson said in an emailed statement. “We are confident that our acquisition of Within will be good for people, developers and the VR space.”

Meta earlier this week announced it was upping the price of its VR headset by $100 as part of a move to “continue investing in moving the VR industry forward for the long term.” From Aug. 1, the 128GB version of the Quest 2 VR headset will increase from $300 to $400, and pricing of the 256GB model will increase from $400 to $500.

A federal court will make the final decision on whether the acquisition can go ahead, after the FTC filed a complaint Wednesday.

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