Fortnite is blowing Zuckerberg’s metaverse vision out of the water

The news: Meta launched its metaverse platform Horizon Worlds in Spain and France last week. But what would have been a celebratory occasion for Meta instead turned into embarrassment after a commemorative virtual selfie from CEO Mark Zuckerberg was widely mocked for its unappealing visuals.

What happened: The widely mocked photo, which included digital graphics of the Eiffel Tower and Spain’s La Sagrada Familia church, prompted comparisons not just to other metaverse platforms like Fortnite or Roblox, but the broad world of video games.

  • The comparisons weren’t unwarranted: The photo had a cheap, lifeless look that revealed a shocking lack of creative vision behind what Meta is betting on not just for the future of its business, but the future of the internet writ large.
  • Rather than let the discourse quietly fade out, Zuckerberg posted an updated photo with improved visuals, calling the original post “pretty basic” and assuring viewers that major updates to Horizon Worlds’ avatars and graphics were “coming soon.”

Why it matters: At the center of the gaffe is a core question that Meta has yet to address about the value proposition of the metaverse. That question: What’s the point?

  • Consumers are confused about what the metaverse is and what purpose it will serve. A survey from Vox asking consumers what they think the metaverse will improve had a broad range of responses from “fitness routines” to “real estate shopping” to “food delivery.”
  • That range may seem like consumers are optimistic about the metaverse, but it also betrays a lack of a clear selling point. And in fact, consumers are not optimistic: 64% of respondents in a PricewaterhouseCoopers survey said they are “worried about the societal impacts” the metaverse could have.
  • As if the confusion wasn’t enough, Horizon Worlds is currently only accessible via Meta’s Quest VR headsets, which just got a $100 price increase—though Meta plans to bring Horizon Worlds to other non-wearable platforms in time. Fortnite and Roblox, meanwhile, are available for free on mobile devices and other platforms.

A side by side with Fortnite: While the fallout from Zuckerberg’s post raged on, Fortnite made headlines yet again thanks to a partnership with the Dragon Ball franchise, tightening its grip on the metaverse and pop culture.

  • One of Fortnite’s strongest selling points is that it rarely uses the term “metaverse” to market itself. Instead, it’s simply Fortnite: the game and social space where iconic characters from popular media franchises come together to partake in any number of virtual activities.
  • In other words, the game itself is the core selling point that Meta’s Horizon Worlds lacks. That popularity has also made Fortnite (and Roblox) the preferred partners of brands looking to get into the metaverse.
  • Horizon Worlds has featured several high-profile experiential marketing campaigns like one with fast food chain Wendy’s. But Fortnite blows it out of the water thanks to partnerships with Disney, Warner Bros., Coca-Cola, musicians like Ariana Grande, and countless others that dictate moments in pop culture.

The big takeaway: Meta has spent too long selling the concept of the metaverse instead of a product. Fortnite’s success shows that if Meta can organize Horizon Worlds behind a unified vision and value proposition, players will be more likely to hop on board—and advertisers will be sure to follow.

This article originally appeared in Insider Intelligence's Marketing & Advertising Briefing—a daily recap of top stories reshaping the advertising industry. Subscribe to have more hard-hitting takeaways delivered to your inbox daily.

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