Metaverse off to ominous start after VR headset sales shrank in 2022

Over a year after changing his company’s name to Meta

and committing to spend billions of dollars developing the metaverse, Mark Zuckerberg’s bet on virtual reality is no closer to paying off.

Sales of VR headsets in the U.S. this year declined 2% from a year earlier to $1.1 billion as of early December, according to data shared with CNBC by research firm NPD Group. Facebook’s advertising business generates that much revenue about every three days.

With the ad business mired in a slump, Zuckerberg has been looking to VR devices and related technology to pull Meta into the future. But data from analyst firm CCS Insight reveals that worldwide shipments of VR headsets as well as augmented reality devices dropped more than 12% year over year to 9.6 million in 2022.

Taken together, the estimates of VR headset sales and shipments create a problematic picture for Meta, whose stock price has lost about two-thirds of its value this year. Zuckerberg has said he’s playing the long game with the metaverse, expecting it take up to a decade to go mainstream and projecting it will eventually host hundreds of billions of dollars in commerce.

It’s not just Meta. Numerous venture firms and other tech companies have wagered big over the past decade on a futuristic world of virtual work, education, fitness and sports.

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