I’m almost in tears. I opened twitter to say something stupid to the VR community when a post on my timeline completely froze me. Altspace VR is closing.
If you don’t know what Altspace VR was… well, it has been the first social VR experience out there. It was innovative and got a lot of money for this idea of making people meet in virtual reality. Technically speaking, it was incredible and supported a bazillion devices, including Leap Motion and Kinect. It has been the topic of one of my first posts. It has been the place that made me try social VR for the first time.
I remember when I got there the first time and there was a guy from the US guiding me at my arrival in this strange place. “Oh, you have a Kinect”, he said. I was quite confused… can I speak in my mic and talk to this guy from the other part of the world? And we both have an avatar? Really? It was one year ago and avatars still all looked like robots, but I was excited by the fact that social VR made me meet a person like in real life. I tried different environments, I tried interacting with other people but couldn’t understand that much of what they were saying because there were a lot of people talking together. But I was amazed nonetheless… that was the first time I understood why social VR could be huge.
Fast forward one year and we have big players offering their social places: Facebook has Spaces, Valve has SteamVR Home. So Altspace VR started having huge competitors that have really a lot of money in their pockets, companies with which couldn’t compete. Then there are also other cool apps like Rec Room and Bigscreen VR and virtual worlds like Sansar. Competition in social VR space is now fierce and I guess that more companies are to come in the future. The situation in this sense reminds me a lot the one of VRideo, that was an awesome platform for VR videos, but then closed because Youtube and Facebook became its competitor. You can’t compete with the big dogs.
Furthermore, VR adoption is going slower than expected. So AltspaceVR wasn’t having the customer numbers it was hoping to have. It was going good (as they say, they had 35.000 users each month), but not good enough. This has created problems in getting a new round of investments. With a big infrastructure to maintain and without money, it’s impossible to go on. That way, exactly as VRideo, AltspaceVR had to shut-down.
I had some suspects things weren’t going in an ideal way when I read some complaints on Reddit about this social: people were too few, events were few, control on users was raised to avoid harassments and this lead to frustration of people that loved going to this wonderful place. But I thought it was just some moment of crisis, not the end.
AltspaceVR has been awesome, it has educated a lot of us to social VR. This is something its creators have to be proud. They have changed things, without them the VR ecosystem now would be different… they have been important for this whole VR ecosystem that is trying to make this technology to succeed. To them, I say my most sincere thank you. And having seen my startup failing, I know how hard they’re suffering now, so I want to send them a virtual hug. Hope their social bubble is small enough to let me do that. And if they want to read my post on how to recover from such failure, they can find it here. About my startup, well, I also contacted them to offer to cooperate on full body VR (and they answered!) and thought about hosting events about that on this platform. Never did that, though.
I really advise you to go to their website and read their goodbye post. It’s really moving, even more than Dear Angelica. Then you can find their explanation on why they had to take this hard decision and what will happen to all users, all apps, all places of AltspaceVR. You can also read memories about beautiful moments that have been hosted there
there have been spontaneous concerts, new friendships, marriages, surprise serenades (looking at you Shoo Shoo!) and too many warm hugs from Claire to count. We hosted so many firsts! And we still have the record for most people in VR at one time (were any of you there at Reggie’s first performance?). We’ve also seen so many community members come into their own and host karaoke nights, improv, movie nights and meetups for people all across the globe.
But the most important information is the one about their goodbye party. On August, 3th, we can all say goodbye to AltspaceVR at their place. If you have the possibility to attend that, go there and say goodbye to this awesome place. Remember that the platform will officially close on August 3rd, 7PM PDT, so come in time.
I’m sure these guys and gals will still make awesome things in VR. In the meantime, I want just to say them thank you and goodbye.
UPDATE: It may be possible that Palmer Luckey will save AltspaceVR. Not all heroes wear capes. Some wear flip-flops
Should I try to save @AltspaceVR? (caveat: may not be possible)
— Palmer Luckey (@PalmerLuckey) July 29, 2017
(Header image by AltspaceVR)