Well, it’s official: Microsoft has decided to shutter (or “sunset”, to use their corporate-speak) the social VR platform AltspaceVR. (I have actually known since mid-December that this was coming, but I had promised the person who informed me that I would keep that information to myself.)
Here’s the complete text of the official annpouncement:
When AltspaceVR first launched, our vision was to create a place where people from around the world could connect and socialize in real time. We knew virtual reality (VR) could be a fun place for immersive games, and much more importantly, we believed in the power of social VR to bring people together, build connections, and create share experiences. It was a bold vision, and with the help of our passionate community, the platform became a place where users made lifelong memories, formed cherished friendships, found love — and even married in IRL (in real life).
As we look to the future, we see the opportunity for VR expanding beyond consumer into business and now have an even greater goal: a more open, accessible, and secure version of immersive experiences in the metaverse. To achieve that we have made the difficult decision to sunset the AltpaceVR platform on March 10, 2023, and shift our focus to support immersive experiences powered by Microsoft Mesh.
The decision has not been an easy one as this is a platform many have come to love, providing a place for people to explore their identities, express themselves, and find community. It has been a privilege to help unlock passions among users, from educational opportunities for personal growth to the development of unique and wonderful events, groundbreaking art, and immersive experiences — enabling this community to achieve more. With Mesh, we aspire to build a platform that offers the widest opportunity to all involved, including creators, partners and customers.
Over the coming weeks, we encourage the many creators and developers who are part of the AltspaceVR community to host final events and download their content*. Information on how to download content is available here.
We want to thank all who have used AltspaceVR over the years to bring a delightful and enriching dimension to the world.
We look forward to what is to come, including our launch of Microsoft Mesh, a new platform for connection and collaboration, starting by enabling workplaces around the world. In the near-term, we are focusing our VR efforts on workplace experiences, learning from and alongside our early customers and partners, and ensuring we deliver a foundation that enables security, trust and compliance. Over time, we hope to extend to consumer experience a well.
If you are an existing Microsoft enterprise customer, you can also reach out to your Microsoft account manager to hear more about Microsoft Mesh.
*Note: Customers will be able to download .csv files from AltspaceVR My Data. Downloadable content is limited.
AltspaceVR is a California-based company which was founded in 2013, and which launched its social VR platform in May 2015. They announced during the summer of 2017 that they had run out of money, and most people were expecting the company to fold. Then, in a surprise move, AltspaceVR was acquired by Microsoft at the last moment, literally saving the platform from closing down.
The closing of Altspace will be a huge blow to its user community; one only has to look at the upcoming events calendar to see how many different groups will be impacted by this decision. I suspect there will be many farewell parties and events before Microsoft finally pulls the plug. I do find it interesting that, although Microsoft is killing AltspaceVR (sorry, “sunsetting” it), the company still has plans for a new social VR platform targeted at corporate and business users, called Microsoft Mesh.
It’s clear from this announcement that a consumer-oriented social VR platform, a next-generation AltspaceVR, is not high on the priority list, although it is mentioned in passing as something that will happen “over time”. I’m not holding my breath. Microsoft has no doubt been watching Meta struggling mightily this past year, trying and largely failing to gain any sort of traction for its Horizon Worlds product, and taking copious notes.
Thanks to Carlos Austin for alerting me to the official announcement today!