In 2021 Meta announced it was set to acquire Within, the studio behind popular VR fitness app Supernatural, however the reportedly $400 million deal became subject to investigations by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in respect to Meta’s supposed monopolization of the VR fitness space. Now, according to a Bloomberg report, it appears the FTC has lost an important suit to block Meta’s acquisition of Within.
Unreleased documents from the closed court proceedings appear to vindicate Meta’s acquisition of Within, Bloomberg reports, citing people familiar with the ruling. The sealed decision was made Wednesday morning by US District Judge Edward Davila in San Jose, California, which effectively denies the FTC’s request for a preliminary injunction to block the acquisition.
The final outcome of the trial isn’t entirely official just yet though. It’s said Judge Davila also issued a temporary restraining order with the aim of pausing Meta from closing the transaction for a further week, allowing time for the FTC to make an appeal. Provided the reports are accurate, the chances of the FTC potentially clawing back from the loss seem fairly slim at this point.
Last July, the FTC under sitting Chair Lina Khan revealed it had filed a motion aimed at blocking the deal with a federal court in a 3–2 decision, which aimed at reigning in Meta’s ability to “buy market position instead of earning it on the merits,” FTC Bureau of Competition Deputy Director John Newman said at the time.
Neither Meta nor the FTC has commented on the report regarding Meta’s win. In a statement to the New York Times about the matter in July, Meta called the FTC’s position “based on ideology and speculation, not evidence. 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.” Adding that the lawsuit would send “a chilling message to anyone who wishes to innovate in VR.”
Over the past four years, Meta has gone unchallenged in several VR studio acquisitions, including Beat Games (Beat Saber), Sanzaru Games (Asgard’s Wrath), Ready at Dawn (Lone Echo & Echo Arena), Downpour Interactive (Onward), BigBox VR (Population: One), Camouflaj (Marvel’s Iron Man VR), Twisted Pixel (Wilson’s Heart, Path of the Warrior), and Armature Studio (Resident Evil 4 VR port for Quest 2).
In particular, the FTC used Meta’s acquisition of Beat Saber as evidence that the company already had engineers with the skill set to both expand Beat Saber into fitness and to build a VR dedicated fitness app from scratch, an FTC court filing stated, maintaining that buying Within “was not the only way Meta could have developed the production capabilities and expertise needed to create a premium VR fitness experience.”