Magic butterfly wings that give you the power of floating across your favorite meditative VR world? Those can be had, at a price. Meta's starting to unlock monetization in its open-world metaverse VR app, Horizon Worlds, beginning with items you'll be able to buy in individual worlds. But these items won't be things you can take with you to other worlds… at least, not yet.
The latest update to Meta's social platform is aimed at building an economy, something that its free open-world app hasn't yet had. Meta's had plans to open up metaverse commerce with things that could be bought and eventually carried across apps, but these first steps in Horizon Worlds are much smaller: These in-game items will only work in the worlds in which they originated. Basically, they're a way for individual world creators to monetize their individual creations.
The new monetizing tool has been enabled for a limited number of hand-picked creators by Meta right now, and plans are for it to roll out to others at some point. But not yet.
"What the creators can do as part of building their world, they can attach behaviors that trigger monetization, which means that we actually don't know all the things they can do to monetize," Vivek Sharma, Meta's VP of Horizon, told CNET. "That's exciting, but also at the same time we want to do this in a way that will scale eventually to cross worlds, into shared spaces and beyond."
Meta's taking a 25% cut of in-world items that are sold, taken from money earned after the creator's platform costs, and payments get processed through the Meta App Store, much like app purchases or extra content in games or apps.
Besides the in-world items, Meta's adding a monthly performance bonus for creators that will change from month to month, aimed at incentivizing engagement in VR. The bonuses aim to follow a similar strategy to what Instagram already uses, but with a unique set of metrics. "We may look at metrics as we learn more about the general ecosystem that we want to reward on, but right now it's really just about those more general engagement metrics," said Meaghan Fitzgerald, Horizon Worlds' product marketing manager.
Meta's calling these early monetization efforts "tests" in its blog post, suggesting that the rules could keep changing and evolving. The company aims to open up ways to sell creator-made items that could carry over across the rest of the Horizon Worlds, like avatar clothing, but at the moment the company sees the in-world items as more like a way of tipping or supporting creators. They could end up leading to things like VIP access in worlds, or extra content. These items would eventually work across hardware, too: Meta plans to have its Horizon platform live on devices beyond the company's own VR headsets.
There's also a risk that the items sold may not do what's advertised, but Meta's leaning on community and creators to solve the vetting of in-world items. Meta's currently reviewing and approving items in worlds that can be sold in this early test, according to Fitzgerald, but as the number of items keeps growing, it's unclear how the larger-scale marketplace will be managed, once items do eventually live beyond particular user-created worlds.