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    Meta reportedly plans to open Horizon Worlds to younger teens as early as March

    Only adults 18 and older can currently sign up for Meta’s Horizon Worlds, but according to The Wall Street Journal, that could change very, very soon. Meta is reportedly opening its social virtual reality experience to younger players ages 13 to 17 in March as part of its efforts to grow Horizon’s numbers and improve user retention. The news says it saw the information in a memo titled “Horizon 2023 Goals and Strategy,” in which Gabriel Aul, Meta’s VP for the VR experience, outlined his goals for the first half of 2023.

    In the memo, Aul reportedly wrote that these younger users are the “true digital citizens of the metaverse” and that Meta needs to make sure it serves them in order for Horizon to succeed. Meta spokesperson Joe Osborne told the publication that “[t]once already spend time in various VR experiences on Quest, and [the company wants] ensure that [it] can also give them a great experience in Horizon Worlds, with age-appropriate tools and protections.”

    Osborn did not say what the experience will offer in terms of protecting young users. 2021, The news reported that the company’s own researchers found Instagram “harmful to a significant percentage” of teens, particularly teenage girls. As a result, Meta paused its work on an Instagram for Kids and has since launched a number of teen safety features for the app as well. It also restricted auto-activating or sensitive content for new users under the age of 16.

    In addition to welcoming younger teens to Horizon, Meta aims to grow the game’s monthly active users from 200,000 to 500,000 in the first half of the year. Perhaps more importantly right now, it’s aiming for a 20 percent retention rate. Apparently Horizon had an 11 percent retention rate in January, meaning only one in nine users returned to the experience the following month. Meta hopes to achieve those goals by improving the reliability and performance of the service and removing bugs that could affect people’s enjoyment.

    The company is aiming to release 20 new Horizon experiences built by third-party studios in an effort to engage more people as well. In addition, it hopes to make the VR game a lot more accessible by rolling out a web version for mobile and desktop by June. Meta teased the web version of the experience in the past, but the company missed its original launch goal last year. This year, the company hopes not only to launch the web version of Horizon within months, but also to have as many as 150,000 monthly cross-screen Horizon users by the first half of 2023.

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