Speaking as a legless cartoon avatar, Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg on Monday announced plans to begin monetizing the company's Horizon Worlds metaverse with a suite of new tools designed to make it easier for creators to earn money.
The tech billionaire said a select number of creators will now have the option to sell the virtual assets and experiences they create to other players for a profit.
"Creator monetization is really important," said Zuckerberg during a virtual panel announcing the initiative. "You all need to be able to support yourself and make a good living building these awesome experiences that people can have."
By extension, that means players can now make in-game purchases, which are the bread and butter of other metaverse games such as Roblox and Axie Infinity.
Horizon Worlds is Meta's effort to move into that territory. The free virtual reality video game is available to anyone with a computer and a Quest VR headset, and Meta has plans to bring the game to mobile phones and game consoles soon.
While Zuckerberg touted the in-game marketplace as a way for players to make money off of their work, the arrangement is also set to work out financially for Meta. The social media giant is taking a 25 percent cut of each transaction, on top of a 30 percent transaction fee in Meta’s Quest store, where it sells products for its applications.
That's a hefty mark-up, but Meta is taking steps to sweeten the deal by offering goal-based bonus payments to creators. The money will be paid out from Meta's $10 million Creator Fund, which launched last year with the goal of spurring creators and developers to build out new experiences on the brand-new metaverse platform.
Meta is just the latest company to offer an economic incentive to players. A growing number of game developers are creating in-game marketplaces and currencies designed to reward the most engaged players, though many have struggled to make the benefits go both ways.
Axie Infinity, for instance, initially promoted the fact that players in some countries could make more than the local minimum wage, but recent research shows this is no longer the case. The game also suffered a massive in-game economic crash earlier this year and a $600 million hack earlier this month.
Meta is obviously bigger and has more resources than Axie Infinity — and crucially, it's not using a cryptocurrency for its player reward system — but it's also not above making a major misstep around new technology.
Meta's attempt to launch a stablecoin, called Diem, fell apart back in February after lawmakers made it clear the project would not pass the regulatory muster.
Recent reports said the company was looking into launching virtual coins, known internally as "Zuck Bucks," but that they would not be cryptocurrencies. It's unclear if these tokens will be connected to the marketplace in Horizon Worlds.