It seems like every few years a major tech company tries to replicate some of the success of the Apple Store. Since the first Apple Stores opened in 2001, we’ve seen the Microsoft Store, the Amazon 4-Star Store, and the Google Store; since then, the Microsoft and Amazon stores have been abandoned. Now it’s Meta’s turn, and you’ll never guess what her name is.
It’s a joke. It is the Meta Store.
So far, the first Meta Store looks… almost exactly as you’d expect. Located in Burlingame, California, near Meta’s Reality Labs, the store features a distinctive mix of wood paneling and futuristic lighting that screams “we’re a tech company.” It looks like someone cut out a portion of a Silicon Valley headquarters and added some gadgets to fill the space. But at least it looks different than an Apple Store.
Those devices are, of course, Facebook’s growing lineup of hardware, including Ray-Ban’s Quest 2 VR headset, Portal video call display, and camera-enabled Stories sunglasses.
The goal of the Meta Store seems to be simple: to get people to try virtual reality. Zuckerberg had this to say about the launch:
“The best way to understand virtual reality is to experience it. In the new Meta Store, anyone can demo popular apps on Quest 2 and project what he’s experiencing on a big wall for his friends to see. You can also try out our other products, like Ray-Ban Stories and Portal, and get a taste of what’s to come as we head into the metaverse.”
According to Meta, the store is deliberately small at about 1,550 square feet to allow for an “engaging experience.” That’s a stark contrast to Apple Stores and their cathedral-like spaces.
Along with the physical store launch, Meta has quietly added a new shopping tab to Meta.com, another sign that the company is doubling down on its hardware presence.
The store opens to the public on May 9.
While Meta hasn’t announced its intention to open more retail stores, I’d be surprised if this is the last. Zuckerberg is right about one thing: You really can’t understand virtual reality without trying it.
As it stands, there just aren’t enough places for people to try out VR headsets. For many people who don’t spend their days reading tech blogs, VR is just a thing for gamers and wayward youngsters, a problem compounded by VR’s siled nature. If Meta wants the metaverse to really become a thing, people outside of tech circles need to experience it for themselves with properly curated demos.
It’s a little surprising that Meta has taken this long to open up a retail experience, but then again, the pandemic has made the idea of sharing VR headsets with strangers a little…unappealing. Time will tell if that hesitation disappears in the coming months.