Meta is taking another substantial leap toward its vision for the metaverse with a lesser-known social platform it acquired last year. Starting Wednesday, the company will stream Crayta, a game-making platform where players can design their own virtual worlds, for free on Facebook Gaming, making the title available to anyone regardless of the hardware they’re using.
Crayta falls somewhere between Roblox and Fortnite, with a more mature art style reminiscent of Epic’s battle royale but with the game-making tools and creativity focus of the former. U.K.-based developer Unit 2 Games originally released the game exclusively for Google Stadia back in 2020, where it gained little traction due to the cloud platform’s poor adoption. The following year, Meta (then still Facebook) acquired Unit 2 and Crayta with ambitions to turn it into something bigger and better, though it was not exactly clear at the time what Meta had in mind.
Now, a little over 12 months to the day since acquiring Unit 2, Meta is giving us a better idea of its plans for Crayta after its major corporate rebranding and its strategic shift toward the metaverse. Although Crayta remains available to stream through Google Stadia and available to download on the Epic Game Store, Meta’s decision to stream the game from its Facebook Gaming platform, both on mobile and in web browsers, could give it much more exposure.
“One of the things that I really love about this is the idea of being able to design a space or design a game from inside of the space or game,” Mark Zuckerberg said of Crayta during a video demo recorded inside of “Hacker Square,” a Meta-themed environment the company built to promote the news.
Crayta could play an integral role in Meta’s effort to catch up to game makers like Epic and Roblox. Both of those companies have rich virtual platforms with hundreds of millions of players. They're also both making substantial inroads in transforming those products into early versions of what the metaverse may eventually look like, with brand deals to run in-game promotions for film and TV, rich avatars featuring Marvel and anime characters and a constant loop of new experiences and rewards to keep players logging in every day.
Meta has an existing social and game-making platform in the form of Horizon Worlds, which is available right now only on Oculus headsets, though the company has plans to launch mobile and web versions soon that drop the VR component. But Horizon Worlds has only a little more than 300,000 monthly users as of February. Roblox, on the other hand, has nearly 50 million daily players.
Crayta can now be streamed to almost any device, in part because it’s not a computationally intensive VR experience. That could give it an edge over the competition, which requires you to download software locally to devices like game consoles, PCs or higher-end smartphones.
“Historically, if you wanted to have something like this run in this high-quality of a 3D environment, that would be really hard to render in a browser or on phones, but being able to do it with cloud infrastructure and then send it down across the network after having already rendered it in the cloud is a pretty big advance,” Zuckerberg said.
“A lot of times today, people think about the metaverse as 3D experiences you can have in virtual and augmented reality,” he added. “But I think what Crayta shows is that you can both build and enjoy these kinds of experiences really easily on all kinds of 2D environments including just within the Facebook App on phones and on computers.”
By streaming the game, Meta is also able to bypass roadblocks on mobile phones, primarily the 30% commission on digital goods imposed by Apple’s App Store. Right now, Crayta does not have the same monetization options that, say, Roblox does, so game creators aren’t given a cut of sales of in-game goods.
Instead, Crayta has a creator fund that awards monetary prizes on a monthly basis. Roblox has been upfront about how much of its revenue it forks over to tech giants to distribute its game on Android and iOS, though it has decidedly stayed on the sidelines during antitrust and App Store regulation debates like the legal battle between Epic and Apple.
So while bypassing the Apple cut isn’t relevant to Crayta right now, it certainly could be down the line if Meta begins implementing more monetization options for creators to sell digital goods. The company recently stirred up controversy when it said it would begin testing sales of virtual goods in Horizon Worlds with a substantial commission of nearly 50% of sales.
It’s not clear right now whether those same rates will apply to Crayta if or when the platform greenlights the creation and sale of digital goods like avatars and virtual clothing. But streaming does allow Meta to remove the 30% mobile app store commission from the equation.
For now, Meta will stream Crayta through a variety of methods depending on what platform you're on. It'll be available on web browsers if you're on a computer. For Android users, Crayta will be streamable from the Facebook app, the Facebook Gaming app and through a mobile browser. On iOS, however, Meta says it will be directing players to use the progressive iOS web app it released last year as a workaround to Apple’s restrictions on cloud gaming.