Meta’s social VR platform, Horizon Worlds, is now open to teens over 13 in the United States and Canada. The flagship Quest platform was previously only available to users aged 18 and above.
According to Meta, the new age policy will take effect within the “coming weeks”, allowing access to the platform’s entire user base in North America since the Quest device is restricted to 13+.
But opening up Horizon Worlds will mean that the company must make a few vital changes to the platform to safeguard its new younger users. So what will these changes entail? And, has the company mentioned any plans to roll out the new policy to users in any other country?
Here’s what we know so far about Meta’s Horizon World age restriction changes.
Adapting Horizon Worlds for Younger Users
Before younger users can use Horizon Worlds, Meta needs to make a few changes. This includes the release of new safety defaults and age-appropriate protections. The changes will mean teens will have control over who they follow and who is allowed to follow them back.
By default, the profiles of younger users will be set to private. This removes location information and prevents others from viewing a user’s active status.
As events and Worlds will have their individual content ratings, younger users will not be able to access anything that isn’t age-appropriate.
To support parents and guardians of teenagers using Horizon Worlds, Meta has put parental supervision tools in place. Parents can visit the Family Center to learn more about these features, and how to have healthy conversations about safety in VR.
New Horizon Worlds Voice Mode Features Added
Along with the rollout of the new changes, all users will have access to a new voice mode feature. This is designed to distort any voices of teenagers and unknown users by default.
By raising your hands to your ear when voice mode is switched on, you will be able to hear other users.
When Will Horizon Worlds Be Available to Kids Outside North America?
Meta has said that it plans to roll out Horizon Worlds to teenagers slowly so usage can be monitored. The company plans to take a phased approach before launching a broader expansion.
At the moment, the company is yet to provide definite details of how soon this might be. Horizon Worlds launched in the United States and Canada in December 2021, while the UK and other European countries saw summer 2022 launch dates.
Horizon Worlds Is Underperforming
Although the news of the changes to Horizon World’s age restriction changes has only been officially released recently, The Wall Street Journal actually reported these changes back in February after the news outlet received an internal memo stating that Meta’s social VR platform was underperforming.
The memo seen by The Wall Street Journal reportedly stated that Horizon Worlds had a weekly retention rate of 11% back in January, which is below the company’s target of 20%. Elsewhere in the memo was the goal that the platform needed to hit 500,000 monthly active users in the first six months of 2023, and reach a million users by the end of the year. At the time of the memo, the platform was dwindling with around 200,000 monthly active users.
Opening the platform to teenagers is an obvious attempt to widen the user base of the platform. At the moment, there isn’t a date set for the release of Horizon World’s web and mobile versions; however, Meta has said these will be coming soon.