Horizon Worlds’ frightening Wendyverse Godzilla stunt: 'Meta still has a lot to learn'
Meta’s latest effort to sell its version of the metaverse is hard to watch; so much so that it’s been deleted. (But you can watch another video from the experience here.) Experts chime in on what marketers can learn from this past weekend’s monstrous misstep.
Try to watch the video and not cringe / Meta News for Horizon Worlds (YouTube)
Godzilla attacked the Wendyverse over the weekend; however, footage is scarce.
According to Forbes, Meta tweeted a video promoting a virtual experience taking place at the Wendyverse – a branded virtual space launched by Wendy’s earlier this year – featuring the ruins of a Wendy’s restaurant that had been destroyed by Godzilla. The tweet and video were then reportedly removed by Meta on Saturday.
But we can still get a sense of what the experience looked like through a video that was uploaded by the YouTube account Meta News from Horizon Worlds, which does not appear to have any official ties to Meta.
One minute, we’re watching one legless avatar interviewing another inside the hull of the destroyed Wendy’s. A moment later, they both float into some kind of office hallway with a refrigerator and a microwave at the far end. The journalist avatar disappears into the fridge and is teleported to a hill outside.
All of the avatars’ movements are characteristically jerky as they struggle to keep up with the movements of their human counterparts.
Meta has spent something in the realm of $15bn on metaverse-related projects in the past year. At the same time, it recently announced that 11,000 employees were going to be laid off. All that sacrifice, and still Meta is left promoting a virtual world with graphics that, in the words of New York Times tech columnist Kevin Roose, “look worse than a 2008 Wii Game.”
It should be noted that Meta is new to the virtual experience industry, which means it’s inevitably going to have to navigate some trial-and-error. “Meta has limited-to-no experience in truly making enjoyable gaming and entertainment environments where people really want to be,” says Joshua Lowcock, chief media officer at Universal McCann Worldwide. “Meta still has a lot to learn.”
Patrick Hanlon, author of Primal Branding, adds: “The metaverse is not for everyone, and experiments like this are just a part of the learning curve.”
‘The player is set up to be underwhelmed from the start’
Horizon Worlds has reportedly lost around 100,000 players between February and October of this year, bringing its userbase down to roughly 200,000 people. For context: Roblox – which is not virtual reality-based, but has nonetheless become more or less synonymous with the vague virtual world called ‘the metaverse’ – has well over 43 million daily active users.
“Why is Horizon struggling for adoption? I think the biggest reason is people simply expect too much from Meta,” says Lee Kebler, director of virtual world building at design consultancy Journey. “There’s this idea that billions of dollars can do anything, and that’s just not true ... [When] I enter Horizon Worlds, a platform advertised to inspire and promote connection and exploration, I’m greeted with an untextured, flat-feeling environment that was put together with basic geometric shapes. The player is set up to be underwhelmed from the start.”
Mark Zuckerberg launches Horizon Worlds in France and Spain with an eye-gougingly ugly VR selfie. Meta's metaverse ploy is surely dying in the dark. pic.twitter.com/j0l6yTYye4
— Ordinary Things (@ordinarytings) August 16, 2022
The Godzilla in the Wendyverse incident is reminiscent of another recent social media debacle for the company: in August, Mark Zuckerberg published an image on his Facebook profile of his Horizon Worlds avatar. It was lavishly mocked – so much so that Zuckerberg quickly followed up with another image of a more high-resolution avatar, assuring the haters that the image of the original avatar “was pretty basic” and that “it was taken very quickly to celebrate [the launch of Horizon Worlds in France and Spain].”
Since Horizon Worlds is clearly in the early stages of its development, “brands who want to experiment with the metaverse will have more success on established franchises such as Fortnite or Roblox,” says Lowcock.
While the Godzilla incident is currently being dunked on, it probably won’t matter in the long run, says Kebler. “I don’t see that as some debacle. People try things, and I applaud them for doing something even if it didn’t play out as they expected. In the grand scheme of things, no one will remember [Meta’s] tweet and frankly Twitter has much bigger content problems at the moment that should concern everyone who still has a Twitter account.”
Wendy’s declined to comment on this story. Meta did not respond to a request for comment.
For more, sign up for The Drum’s Inside the Metaverse weekly newsletter here.