In brief: Fourteen years after being blocked in China for failing to comply with Beijing's censorship rules, Meta, or Facebook as it was back then, has found a way back into the Asian nation through a deal with Tencent to sell a new, lower-cost VR headset.
According to the Wall Street Journal's sources, Meta has struck a deal with Chinese behemoth Tencent for the world's largest video game company to be the exclusive seller of Meta's headsets in China. The agreement follows a year of negotiations between the two firms.
Tencent will start selling a less expensive VR headset in China next year featuring lenses that are cheaper than those in the Meta Quest 3, which costs $499.99 in the US. This more affordable version of the device will also come with a more advanced GPU than the one used in the Meta Quest 2 and be available in other markets.
The deal will see Meta take the larger share of device sales while Tencent makes more from content and service revenue, including software subscriptions and games. The headset will also come with games and apps published by Tencent.
With the exception of Apple and Tesla, most Western companies have struggled in China, which takes a dim view of entities that publish anything it deems objectionable and don't abide by its strict rules and regulations. Beijing has blocked many websites, including Facebook and Instagram, using its Great Firewall.
Mark Zuckerberg has made charm offensives for the benefit of China over the last few years, including a visit in 2016 that included jogging through Beijing's Tiananmen Square, visiting the Great Wall, and meeting then-internet czar Lu Wei, who was later jailed for alleged corruption.
The Meta boss should be pleased that the Tencent deal has been signed given the negative publicity surrounding him in China earlier this year. An influential social media account affiliated with the official Beijing Daily called out the Meta CEO over a speech he made to Grangetown University in 2019 when he criticized TikTok for censoring protesters and activists, such as those involved in the Hong Kong protests.
Zuckerberg also warned that China's "vision of the internet" could be exported to other countries, and has spoken out against TikTok and China on more recent occasions. In reference to the billionaire trying to sell VR headsets in the country, the account wrote: "You smashed the wok, and now you want to enjoy a Chinese meal?"