Facebook’s parent company is under increasing pressure to focus less on the meta universe – an experimental bet that investors have warned is causing “enormous and horrific losses”.

Last year, the tech giant changed its name to Meta, planning to build a virtual world that millions of people would use.

But Mark Zuckerberg’s meta universe has encountered technical problems, and the number of users is far below the goals set by the executives.

The latest figures show that Reality Labs, the division that creates the meta universe, lost £3.16bn between July and September – down from £2.27bn in the same period a year earlier.

Investors were quick to dump Meta shares after the company warned that losses related to the meta universe would “increase significantly” next year.

When asked why his company is focusing on experimental bets, Zuckerberg said: “It would be a mistake for us not to focus on any of these areas that will be fundamentally important to our future.”

But analysts say the meta universe “feels like one big gamble” – especially given the current economic crisis – and fear the road ahead will be “long and painful”.

The virtual reality headsets required to get the best experience in Meta’s virtual world are expensive. One costs £1,300 – putting it out of the reach of many consumers.

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Would you buy virtual land?

Paolo Pescatore of PP Foresight said: “People are not rushing out of their seats to buy a VR headset or even watch 360-degree videos… The new device still feels like an expensive toy.”

Earlier this week, a fund that invests in Meta called on the company to cut its annual investment in the meta universe from $10 billion to $5 billion.

Altimeter Capital CEO Brad Gerstner warned: “Meta has brought excess into the country – too many people, too many ideas, too little urgency.

“This lack of focus and fitness is obscured when growth is easy, but deadly when growth slows and technology changes.”

Meanwhile, Insider Intelligence analyst Debra Aho Williamson warned that Meta needs to change its business — focusing less on the meta universe and more on fixing its core business.

“Like Facebook Inc, it was a revolutionary company that changed the way people communicate and the way marketers interact with consumers. Today it is no longer such an innovative innovator.”

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October 2021: Facebook rebranded as Meta

Meta, which is owned by Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp, has other clouds on the horizon as it struggles with falling ad sales and stiff competition from TikTok.

Revenue in the third quarter fell for the second time in a row to 23.83 billion pounds.

Meta’s share price is in danger of falling to its lowest level in six years – and shares have fallen 61.6% since the start of the year.