#153: Legless

Mark Zuckerberg's metaverse is clearly doomed to fail. I'm starting to worry it will take VR down with it.

What a week it’s been for one of 2022’s few truly cathartic pastimes: dunking on the metaverse. The biggest source of such yuks comes courtesty of Facebo- erm, Meta, which managed to completely sideline whatever actual news came out of this week’s Meta Connect event with a single tweet. To be fair, it is one for the ages:

Legs are coming soon. What phrasing! What wanton self-harm! What a stark indictment of the miserable state of Meta, and how low its bar for what counts as progress has sunk. It is important to note here that these are not anyone’s actual legs. This is obvious when you think about it: your VR headset does not know anything about your legs, after all. It will merely show you an inferred assumption of the position of other participants’ legs. You, the hypothetical user in this scenario, will still not have any legs. Look down: no legs for you. Are you excited?

This week it also emerged that the company’s metaverse lead, Vishal Shah, has demanded staff make greater use of Meta’s signature software product, Horizon Worlds. “For many of us, we don’t spend that much time in Horizon and our dogfooding dashboards show this pretty clearly,” he wrote in a memo to staff. “Why is that? Why don’t we love the product we’ve built so much that we use it all the time?”

There is, you might think, quite an obvious answer to that. But as is so often in business follies such as this — and as was laid out in withering detail this week in an excellent thread about Google — said obvious answer is roundly ignored. Shah, avoiding the obvious conclusion that his employer’s legless Metaverse simply isn’t very loveable, decides that the team hasn’t spent enough time getting to know it yet. They have to break through its hard shell and reveal the sweet, warming goo within. “Everyone in this organisation should make it their mission to fall in love with Horizon Worlds,” he pleaded. “You can’t do that without using it. Get in there. Organise times to do it with your colleagues or friends, in both internal builds but also the public build so you can interact with our community.” Good luck with that, old stick.

There is of course much more to the whole metaverse business than Mark Zuckerberg’s version of it, much though he’d prefer us all to think otherwise. But there’s been trouble at t’mill elsewhere this week too. Decentraland, one of web3’s supposed superstars — its fundraising to date values it at over $1bn — was this week reported to have just 38 daily active users. The company behind it grumpily pointed out that DappRadar, the website that revealed the figure, wasn’t counting properly ACTUALLY, and that Decentraland’s DAU are in fact north of 8,000. This is not quite the counterargument you think it is, gang! You still have the user figures of a mobile game that should have been cancelled six months ago. At the time of writing there are more people playing Company Of Heroes 2 on Steam, and that came out in 2013.

Hit Points thoroughly dislikes repeating itself — living with two small children, it does quite enough of that already — so I shall not remind you of where I stand on all this. I will only say that it continues to be quite funny to see the people behind so many bad ideas, that always sounded like bad ideas and appear destined to remain bad ideas for ever, nonetheless keep plugging away. I mean sure, I’d probably do the Sideshow Bob thing with the rakes if someone gave me $200m or so — I might even do it for less, thinking about it — but I’d at least have the decency not to pretend I was changing the world in the process.

What bothers me about all this is that the longer these doomed endeavours shit the bed in public, the harder it becomes for any genuinely good ideas in this space — if we kindly assume that some may one day exist — to break through. They will either be written off as a bad joke by association, or simply not get noticed because everyone’s too busy laughing at something else. I suppose I have a modest stake in this, given the way certain corners of the media chose to interpret my chat with Brendan Greene a couple of weeks ago, lumping him in with all the other NFT grifters for contemplating what a virtual economy might look like in a decade’s time. I mean, I get it. The space is full of grifters at the moment. But now Meta is involved, the metaverse and virtual reality are inextricably linked. I worry that, if we kill the former, we risk killing off the latter at the same time.

I have tried just about every VR device going, from the original Rift DK1 to Valve’s lavishly premium Index, and they have all ended up in the loft. But I bought a Quest 2 a few weeks back for a consulting gig and it’s a lovely thing, a great balance of performance, convenience and price. Through it I see VR with a renewed level of cautious optimism. For now, Zuck seems intent on wedding his company’s VR efforts to the inevitable trainwreck of Horizon Worlds. I can only hope that, when the wheels finally come off the thing and it falls into a ravine and explodes, it doesn’t take VR down too.


  • Over in the Hit Points Discord, miksar weighs in on Monday’s subscriber-exclusive edition, which tried to make sense of some rather rum goings-on at Ubisoft. “Somehow I get the impression that barely anyone in the industry knows how to consistently replicate success,” they write. “Most of the time you just hope that your past success was the result of sound decisions, not just uncontrollable circumstances you found yourself in and pure luck. It’s like professional sports in this regard.” In fairness it’s like just about everything I’ve ever done in my life, from writing features to chopping wood to toilet training a toddler, but yes, well observed.
  • “I wonder how hard it would be to restructure Ubisoft,” writes Shana, “on a scale of one to ‘animating female character models.’” Very good. Wish I’d thought of that.


  • Microsoft has unveiled a raft of measures aimed at improving accessibility in games, including a set of best-practice guidelines drawn up in consultation with experts and disabled community members, and a testing service enabling developers to get feedback on settings, menus and even gameplay from an accessibility standpoint. Really good stuff, this. In an industry that often drags its feet on important things I am very impressed with the speed of progress in this area. Long way to go, obviously, but credit where it’s due.
  • Nintendo of America is paying $26,000 to settle a labour lawsuit brought by a sacked QA tester.
  • Overwatch 2 bug-watch latest: it’s randomly shutting down and restarting PCs. Heavens.
  • Behold these simply disgusting Tag Heuer x Mario Kart watches. Yours for just £21,250.

There we go! Gosh, what a busy week it’s been. A reminder to free subscribers that there has never been more value in a paid subscription to Hit Points: in the last seven days alone subs have had their first exclusive weekly edition, and a pleasingly lengthy Max HP interview with Rez legend Tetsuya Mizuguchi. Both appear to have gone down very nicely indeed.

My heartfelt thanks to those who see the same things I see in reader-funded journalism — specifically my version of it — and are prepared to pay to support its continuation. You remain the very best.

Anyway! Have an excellent weekend, and I’ll see you all next week. (Paid subs first.) I’m off to google ‘dogfooding dashboards’, though I suspect I ought to pour a stiff drink before I do.