Meta Platforms Inc.’s ambitious pursuit of the metaverse concept, championed by CEO Mark Zuckerberg, continues to come at a staggering financial cost. In its recently released third-quarter earnings report, Meta disclosed that its Reality Labs division, responsible for developing metaverse-related technologies, recorded an operating loss of a colossal $3.7 billion.

The revelation underscores the steep financial toll of Meta’s foray into virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR). The metaverse, once a primary focus, has taken a backseat in recent discussions.

Meta Faces Financial Setback

The Reality Labs division’s performance fell significantly below expectations. While industry analysts had projected sales of approximately $299.3 million, the division reported a mere $210 million in revenue. Furthermore, the operating loss of $3.7 billion far exceeded what was anticipated, estimated at $3.9 billion.

Despite these substantial financial setbacks, Meta remains steadfast in driving the metaverse into reality. One of the latest manifestations of this commitment is the introduction of the Quest 3 VR headset, which was unveiled in September. Marketed as a technologically superior successor to the Quest 2, the Quest 3 incorporates an enhanced “passthrough” feature to deliver a more immersive mixed-reality experience.

The Quest 3’s price point, however, has stirred some debate. At $499, it commands a premium compared to the Quest 2, priced $200 higher. Nevertheless, it remains a more budget-friendly alternative than the high-end Quest Pro VR headset, with a lofty price tag of $3,499.

Meta is positioning its Quest line of headsets as a cost-effective option for consumers exploring VR, especially when pitted against Apple’s upcoming Vision Pro mixed reality headset. It is expected to debut next year at a whopping $3,499.

The company also embraces a subscription-based model with the Meta Quest+ VR subscription service, launched in June. Priced at $7.99 monthly, this service offers users access to two new monthly games compatible with the Quest 2, Quest Pro, and Quest 3 VR headsets.

Meta’s Q3 Sales Exceed Expectations

Despite the astounding losses in the Reality Labs division, Meta’s overall financial performance in the third quarter showed resilience. Total sales for the quarter reached $34.2 billion, surpassing the average analyst estimate of $33.5 billion.

However, the optimism surrounding Meta’s financial outlook is curbed by its Chief Financial Officer, Susan Li, who pointed out the company’s susceptibility to macroeconomic fluctuations. Li stressed that the revenue outlook for 2024 remains uncertain, casting a shadow on Meta’s financial future.

In the face of mounting financial pressures, the company took decisive steps earlier in the year, reducing its workforce and streamlining its operations. These efforts aimed to strengthen its advertising capabilities and harness artificial intelligence to enhance its algorithms. Once a focal point, the metaverse has seen a diminishing presence in recent discussions, particularly in light of a skeptical investor community.

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