Meta can move forward with its acquisition of virtual reality startup Within, a report from Bloomberg says. According to the report, Judge Edward Davila submitted a sealed decision that denied the FTC’s request to take next steps in blocking the transaction.
The FTC sued Meta in July to block the purchase of Within, the creators of the VR fitness app Supernatural, alleging that the acquisition would be anti-competitive. Indeed, Meta has a history of buying up promising VR technology to power its mutli-billion dollar bet on the metaverse.
In court in December, FTC argued that Within’s Supernatural app is a direct competitor to Beat Saber, a popular VR rhythm game that some people use to work out.
Meta bought Beat Games, the studio behind Beat Saber, in 2019. Even Oculus, the hardware company that powers Meta’s flagship Quest headsets, came aboard via a $2 billion acquisition in 2014. And in the final days of 2022, Meta confirmed its purchase of Luxexcel, a smart eyewear company. None of the terms of these deals have been disclosed.
When the FTC called Zuckerberg to the stand, the government lawyers presented email exchanges from March 2021 that proposed a partnership between Beat Saber and Peloton. Zuckerberg said that a deal like this is no longer on the table, in part due to the company’s worsening financial state, and it did not progress further. A partnership between Beat Saber and Peloton would now be impossible, Zuckerberg testified, since Meta is now in a lesser financial situation (in part due to changing Apple policies, he said).
Zuckerberg also said that fitness is not his priority in the VR space — rather, he’s focused on social, gaming and productivity use cases. Meta recently released its Quest Pro, a powerful headset that’s specifically designed for remote work.
Now, Judge Davila could give Meta the go-ahead, but per Bloomberg’s report, Meta will be temporarily barred from completing the deal while the FTC decides on its next steps, since the agency could still appeal the ruling.
TechCrunch has reached out to Meta for comment.