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Will Meta’s Recent Layoffs Impact the Tech Giant’s VR Fitness Plans?
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Will Meta’s Recent Layoffs Impact the Tech Giant’s VR Fitness Plans?

VR Fitness
Meta acquired Within, the company behind Supernatural, but recent layoffs at the tech giant cast some doubt on its commitment to the VR fitness space

Meta has conducted yet another round of layoffs, this time targeting its technically-focused employees. 

The layoffs shouldn’t come as a surprise, given that Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg has declared this the “year of efficiency” for the company. But they beg the question: could Meta’s recent layoffs foreshadow changes in the realm of VR fitness?

User experience, software engineering and graphics programming employees were among those affected by Meta’s recent layoffs, according to LinkedIn posts. Other postings on the career networking site indicated that gameplay programmers, who work on VR and augmented reality products, had also been laid off. 

According to CNBC, a laid-off Meta employee confirmed that the platform’s layoffs also targeted product-facing teams and revealed that Meta plans to eliminate business-facing roles in finance, legal and HR next month. 

The now-former Meta employee, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, also shared that Meta suggested that tech teams unaffected by the recent layoffs may receive pink slips next month. 

The layoffs also impacted two of Meta’s game studios, with positions at Downpour Interactive and Ready at Dawn affected. Meta purchased Ready at Dawn in 2020, followed by Downpour Interactive the following year.

Zuckerberg admits his company is in a tough spot: while the tech firm has been profitable, it hasn’t been growing as rapidly as it has in the past. 

During a staff-wide Q&A this week, Zuckerberg addressed the changes and cuts he believes are required to move the company forward, according to a report from Vox.

VR fitness

“People want to point to whose fault is this or what’s to blame or what were the mistakes,” Zuckerberg told employees, per Vox. “But at some level, it is sort of natural that you’re not going to be in hypergrowth forever. When you’re not, you want to shift the moment.”

The recording demonstrated Meta’s CEO showcasing the company’s new “operating model,” including tight budgets and slower hiring. The company is also looking to reduce layers of management. Twenty percent of Meta’s executives were laid off to “flatten” the tech company with the recent cuts, and other managers are being asked to change positions to become individual contributors, according to Vox.

Meta has made VR fitness a priority

Despite the layoffs, Zuckerberg concluded the call by stating that the company will continue to invest in the metaverse and AI and that the company will lead in those areas due to its massive reach. 

In 2021, the tech giant acquired Within, a virtual reality company that developed Supernatural. The subscription-based platform offers a fully immersive fitness experience using popular hit music in landscapes that would give anyone passport envy. 

Closing the deal to acquire Within wasn’t smooth, as Meta was locked in a battle with the Federal Trade Commission, which filed an antitrust case against Meta. The FTC alleged that Meta’s planned acquisition of Within could harm competition and dampen innovation for VR fitness apps.

The tech company was finally granted the green light to complete its acquisition of WIthin earlier this year.

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While Meta reported an operating loss of over $13 billion in 2022 on Reality Labs, its VR and augmented reality business unit, the company signaled it would continue to invest in the two disciplines, viewing them as long-duration investments. The company plans to launch a next-gen VR headset, Meta Quest 3, later this year.

Zuckerberg has seemed sold on the idea of fitness subscriptions for VR, stating in 2021 that he imagined his platform would rival the likes of a well-known connected fitness company. 

“Think about it like Peloton, where you have a subscription, but instead the device is VR and you put on your headset, and you’re in this amazing environment and you’re doing a boxing class with an instructor, or a dance class,” he said at the time, explaining the concept. 

Many fans of Within’s Supernatural fitness app were apprehensive about Meta acquiring the fitness platform, wondering if Zuckerberg would dampen their favorite workout method. Supernatural subscribers, much like Peloton and Tonal, have developed an affinity for the platform’s fitness coaches.

“Meta hasn’t exactly had a history of improving things,” one poster pointed out on a Reddit community devoted to Supernatural fans.

Supernatural’s entertaining approach to working out has been a hit with many fitness enthusiasts, especially those who say they’ve developed a healthy habit of working up a sweat with the fitness platform.

While many hope that Supernatural remains unaffected by Meta’s troubles, the global virtual fitness market is full of potential and is expected to reach $106.4 billion by 2030, according to a recent report by Grand View Research. 

Time will tell how Meta proceeds with its VR fitness plans, but as the Grand View report indicated, the demand for personalized workouts and increased adoption of VR, coupled with the growing demand for live and on-demand streaming, are key market drivers.

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