Meta’s Horizon Worlds is surprisingly decent on the web and mobile

Meta’s Horizon Worlds is surprisingly decent on the web and mobile
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Meta’s Horizon Worlds 3D social platform is starting to roll out on the web and mobile, and it generally works a lot better outside of VR than I expected — though I wish there were more to do.

Until recently, Horizon Worlds has only been available on Meta’s Quest VR headsets. In VR, the app lets you explore a wide range of virtual experiences, including games, social spots, and giant 2D screens of concerts from huge music stars. It doesn’t have anywhere close to the breadth of worlds on metaverse platforms like Roblox or Fortnite, and many Horizon Worlds experiences only have double- or single-digit numbers of players at any given time. But you can see the nascent beginnings of some kind of social network for 3D spaces.

The thing is, visiting Horizon Worlds in VR is just a big hassle. I have to dig out the Quest headset and controllers from the drawer near my desk, cross my fingers that they have enough battery power to work, and maybe wait for the device to install a Horizon Worlds update before I can actually get to the app. By the time I’ve gotten it up and running, I’ve often already lost interest in checking out whatever I wanted to see.

Horizon Worlds on the web and mobile, on the other hand, has the promise of being much less of a hassle by nature of being on devices I’m already regularly using. So when I recently got an email telling me I had early access to the web and mobile versions of the app, I was eager to see how the experience might differ from VR.

One positive for Horizon Worlds on the web and mobile: accessing it is just plain faster. On my Chrome browser, I was able to hop right into Super Rumble — the only game on web and mobile that’s available — from horizon.meta.com. The experience loads in a few seconds on my M1 MacBook Air, and that means I was able to start blasting my opponents within moments of getting into the game.

On iOS, things were a bit more finicky and inconsistent. When I tried to play on mobile Safari, Meta asked me to make horizon.meta.com a homescreen app (kind of like what Microsoft has you do if you want to stream Xbox games on iOS) and get to Super Rumble from there. I could also access Super Rumble from the Quest iOS app, but it was a little buried (Menu > Worlds > Super Rumble). When I first tried the game on Saturday, I hardly ran into any performance issues on my iPhone. On Sunday, I ran into a ton of lag until I restarted my phone; after that, the app worked great.

Even with some of the friction and performance issues on iOS, I like that I can get from “I want to play” to “I am playing” on web and mobile in a fraction of the time that I can on a Quest. The thing is, I find Super Rumble to be pretty dull (sorry, David), so I don’t have much reason to hang out in Horizon Worlds on the new platforms.

I may not have long to wait for that to change. On the Horizon Worlds website, Meta promises that more worlds are “coming soon.” And I get why Meta is starting off so small on web and mobile — it probably wants to get as many issues ironed out as possible before adding too many experiences to the mix, and based on my lag issues on iOS, it seems like Meta still has some work to do.

But when I can explore a lot more Horizon Worlds experiences in VR and an unfathomable amount of worlds in Roblox and Fortnite no matter which platform I play them on, Super Rumble just isn’t enough to get me to actively hang out in Horizon Worlds on my phone right now. Here’s hoping more experiences are indeed added soon — perhaps there will be news on that front at Meta’s Connect conference this week.

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