AltspaceVR announced on July 28th that it will be shuttering its popular social platform for virtual reality, which has more than 35,000 monthly active users, on August 3rd. AltspaceVR was particularly popular because it allowed anyone using its service to meet people from around the world, attend free live events, and even play interactive games with friends.
The ambitious VR app raised more than $15 million in venture funding since its founding in 2013 from prominent venture capital firms, such as Formation 8 and Maven Ventures. AltspaceVR also attracted investments from an impressive lineup of corporate investment funds, including Comcast Ventures and Tencent Holdings.
Here’s the blog post that Altspace composed for its dedicated followers:
It is with a tremendously heavy heart that we let you all know that we are closing down AltspaceVR on August 3rd, 7PM PDT. The company has run into unforeseen financial difficulty and we can’t afford to keep the virtual lights on anymore. This is surprising, disappointing, and frustrating for every one of us who have put our passion and our hopes into AltspaceVR. We know it will probably feel similarly for you.
You’ve made AltspaceVR one of the best places to be in VR (or on the internet). We won’t try to write down all of the memories that are flooding our hearts right now of all of the laughter, puns, fun and friendliness that existed in this community. 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.
We are all humbled by what you made of this virtual oasis. Thank you for spending your time building, hosting, and making the best community we could have wished for. Please take the next week to make sure those connections live on past AltspaceVR. Because if you do, then what we built will really live on.
There have been many tears and there will probably be a few more to come. We’ve given up wiping off the mist that clouds our headsets. Please join us for a final farewell party on 8/3. At the end of the party, we will be shutting down AltspaceVR.
What's Next For Social VR?
While AltspaceVR joins several predecessors in the VR startup graveyard, other companies continue to plow the path. Many in the industry are excited about the future of WebVR, particularly the work being done at A-Frame, MozillaVR, and Chrome. Of course, Facebook has already put a lot of resources behind Spaces, Facebook’s own social platform for VR.
Ultimately, AltspaceVR's real legacy may be that it was a laboratory for experimenting with what “social” could become when comedy shows with Reggie Watts, LGBT Meetups, and civic discourse happen in virtual reality (see how Altspace partnered with NBC to create a Virtual Democracy Plaza during its coverage of the 2016 Clinton-Trump election). Altspace pushed the boundaries of what it means to be social in VR, and will undoubtedly help the next generation of technologists and creators build upon what we are learning as the new rules for the future of digital experiences.
Clifton Dawson, CEO of Greenlight Insights, is an analyst who covers digital disruption and how today’s company are transforming their business models to deliver next-gen experiences through virtual and augmented reality technology. Follow him: @AskClifton.