It seems every few years a major tech company tries its hand at replicating some of the Apple Store’s success. Since the first Apple Stores opened in 2001, we’ve seen the Microsoft Store, the Amazon 4-Star store, and the Google Store — Microsoft and Amazon’s stores have since been abandoned. Now it’s Meta‘s turn, and you’ll never guess what it’s called.
Just kidding. It’s the Meta Store.
So far, the first Meta Store looks… pretty much exactly like what you’d expect. Located in Burlingame, California, — near Meta’s Reality Labs — the store features a distinct combination of wood paneling and futuristic lighting that shouts ‘we’re a tech company.’ It looks like someone cut out a slice of a Silicon Valley HQ and added some gadgets to fill up the space. But at least it looks different than an Apple Store.
Those gadgets are of course Facebook’s growing line-up of hardware, including the Quest 2 VR headset, the Portal video-calling display, and Ray-Ban’s camera-toting Stories sunglasses.
The Meta Store’s goal seems to be a simple one: get people to try VR. Zuckerberg said the following about the launch:
“The best way to understand virtual reality is to experience it. At the new Meta Store, anyone can demo popular apps on Quest 2 and project what you’re experiencing onto a big wall for your friends to see. You can also try our other products like Ray-Ban Stories and Portal, and get a sense of what’s coming as we build towards the metaverse.”
According to Meta, the store is purposely small at roughly 1,550 square feet to enable an “engaging experience.” That’s a notable contrast from Apple Stores and their cathedral-like spaces.
Alongside the launch of the physical store, Meta has quietly added a new shopping tab to Meta.com, another sign the company is doubling down on its hardware presence.
The store opens to the public on May 9.
While Meta hasn’t announced an intention to open further retail locations, I’d be surprised if this is the last. Zuckerberg is right about one thing: you can’t really understand VR without trying it.
As it stands, there simply aren’t enough places for people to try VR headsets. For many folks who don’t spend their day reading tech blogs, VR is just a thing for gamers and young whippersnappers, a problem compounded by the isolated nature of VR. If Meta wants the metaverse to actually become a thing, people outside of tech circles need to experience it for themselves with properly curated demos.
It’s a little surprising it’s taken Meta so long to open a retail experience, but then again, the pandemic has made the idea of sharing VR headsets with strangers a little… unappealing. Time will tell whether that hesitation wears off in the months to come.