July 7, 2022
Hello, and welcome to Protocol Entertainment, your guide to the business of the gaming and media industries. This Thursday, we’re exploring why Meta is ditching Facebook logins for its VR hardware and how Netflix is bringing spatial audio to older headphones. Plus: AR cleaning magic.
Meta is changing the way people log into their VR headsets, again: The company is introducing Meta accounts for all of its VR hardware products going forward. It’s also switching from using Oculus profiles to Meta Horizon profiles for all things social in VR.
This move is a remarkable 180 for the company, which only two years ago made Facebook logins mandatory for its VR headsets. That shift led to an outcry among early Oculus owners (but seemingly didn’t do much to slow adoption of its wireless Quest headset). The company teased a change on this policy late last year, but there remained uncertainty. On Thursday, Mark Zuckerberg personally announced the reversal on his Facebook page, saying, “You won't need a Facebook account to log into Quest starting next month.”
These new Meta accounts aren’t just about placating a small but vocal group of critics. The shift also represents a new approach to identity in VR and beyond — and an acknowledgment that Facebook’s aging social graph may not be the best foundation to build the metaverse.
Meta accounts are much more than just a fresh coat of paint. Coinciding with the switch, the company is also recognizing that some of its long-held beliefs about social networking won’t work in the metaverse.
Meta is betting big on the metaverse as the future of social, and the introduction of a new account structure is another step in that direction. On the one hand, it’s an acknowledgment that Facebook itself isn’t all that useful in building the metaverse. Chances are you don’t really want to hang out with those obnoxious relatives whose Facebook posts make you cringe every time they show up in your feed, even if it’s in the metaverse.
But it’s also a vote of confidence, with Meta telling people, “We’ve built massive social apps before, and we can do it again — even without your creepy uncle.”
— Janko Roettgers
You're either real-time or out of time: Applications like this power our daily lives, and if they can’t access massive amounts of data stored in a database as well as stream data “in motion” instantaneously, you — and millions of customers — won’t have these in-the-moment experiences.
Spatial audio is all the rage with AirPods owners. It’s also a challenge for a company like Netflix. The service does support Apple’s format, but it also streams to thousands of different devices, many of which aren’t compatible with AirPods (think Android phones or smart TVs).
To bring a more immersive audio experience to all of its subscribers, Netflix has now teamed up with Sennheiser. Using the headphone maker’s AMBEO audio format, Netflix is able to bring what it calls “enhanced stereo” to plain old headphones, stereo soundbars and even simple laptop speakers, the company announced Thursday.
The new format does require Netflix to re-encode its audio, which is why the company is starting with just a couple dozen titles, including the latest season of “Stranger Things.” Subscribers can find compatible titles by searching for “spatial audio,” and the feature will be turned on by default. The question is, will Netflix members notice? And if so, how long until we’ll see similar formats come to Disney+ and other services?
— Janko Roettgers
Disclosure: Protocol is owned by Axel Springer, whose chairman and chief executive officer, Mathias Döpfner, is on the board of Netflix.
Meta now sells 90% of all VR headsets. Its closest competitor, ByteDance-owned Pico, only accounts for less than 5%, according to new IDC numbers. Those numbers should change when Sony finally ships its new PlayStation VR 2 headset.
The U.K. is investigating Microsoft’s Activision acquisition. The $69 billion deal is under scrutiny from the U.K.’s Competition and Markets Authority, CNBC reported. The CMA is looking at whether the deal could result in “higher prices, lower quality, or reduced choice.”
TiVo's parent company acquires Vewd for $109 million. Xperi wants to use Vewd to launch a TiVo operating system for smart TVs.
Fall Guys’ free-to-play milestone. In a now-standard story, the developer of battle royale hit Fall Guys said the game crossed 50 million players in just two weeks after dropping its price to zero.
Sony removes purchased movies from customer libraries. Proving once again that purchasing digital content isn’t the same as buying a DVD, Sony is telling PlayStation Store customers in Germany and Austria that they will lose access to movies like “John Wick” and “La La Land” at the end of August due to “evolving licensing agreements.”
The fourth season of “Stranger Things” surpassed 1 billion viewing hours within 28 days of its release. The show is now the second-most-popular title on Netflix after “Squid Game,” but the decision to split up the season into two parts may have helped to boost those numbers.
Global video subscriptions will grow 10.5% this year. The worldwide online video subscription market is set to surpass 2 billion subscriptions by 2027, according to Omdia.
The inside story on the Axie Infinity hack. Sky Mavis’ pay-to-earn game had its Ethereum sidechain compromised by a fake job offer sent to an Axie employee, according to crypto news site The Block.
Ever wonder what a new chair would look like in your living room, but can’t really imagine it because you already have too much crap everywhere? No worries, Shopify’s got you covered: The company’s AR/VR team has been experimenting with Apple’s new RoomPlan AR API to build a “reset button” for your surroundings. Just scan your room, press that button and you can make all that clutter disappear, making way for a clean canvas to add new AR furniture for a try-before-you-buy-kind-of preview. It’s a fun feature, and the 15-year-old in me can’t wait for it to come to future AR glasses. Just imagine: You’ll never have to clean up again!
— Janko Roettgers
You're either real-time or out of time: Many of the challenges facing our world today are increasingly complex and critical, such as climate change, talent shortages and supply chain disruptions. Solving these problems requires analyzing large data sets, quickly. Additionally, organizations must use data to predict future issues and then determine the most effective solution.
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Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated Meta was introducing Meta accounts for all of its hardware. It is doing so only for its VR devices.