FTC Looks to Block Meta's Acquisition of Virtual Reality Fitness App

Meta already has a "virtual reality empire," the FTC alleges.

Corinne Reichert Senior Writer
Corinne Reichert (she/her) grew up in Sydney, Australia and moved to California in 2019. She holds degrees in law and communications, and currently writes news, analysis and features for CNET across the topics of electric vehicles, broadband networks, mobile devices, big tech, artificial intelligence, home technology and entertainment. In her spare time, she watches soccer games and F1 races, and goes to Disneyland as often as possible.
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Corinne Reichert
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Meta pushed back against the FTC's complaint filed Wednesday in a federal court.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The US Federal Trade Commission said Wednesday it's looking to block Facebook parent company Meta's acquisition of Within Unlimited, which makes a VR fitness app called Supernatural.

"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.

"Meta already owns a best-selling virtual reality fitness app, and it had the capabilities to compete even more closely with Within's popular Supernatural app. But Meta chose to buy market position instead of earning it on the merits," John Newman, deputy director of the FTC's Bureau of Competition, alleged in the release.

Meta had announced its acquisition of Within and Supernatural in October. The Supernatural app and subscription service connect 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 version of Meta's hit fitness VR music game Beat Saber. Meta acquired Beat Saber in 2019.

On Wednesday, Meta pushed back against the FTC's take on its acquisition of Within.

"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 published a blog post about the FTC's move later Wednesday, arguing it's wrong on both the facts and the law.

"It's always been clear that our acquisition of Within will inject new investment into the VR fitness space, improve the Quest platform to better support all fitness apps and expand the VR ecosystem as a whole -- all to the benefit of people and developers alike," Nikhil Shanbhag, VP and associate general counsel for Meta Competition and Regulatory, wrote in the post.

Meta earlier this week announced it's 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." Starting Monday, 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.