AltspaceVR, one of the greatest things ever, has announced that it will close its virtual doors, on March 10.
A spectacular virtual reality app that housed individual, user-created worlds and sponsored virtual reality nightclubs and other events, AltspaceVR’s demise had been rumored for weeks. The company, which is owned by Microsoft, confirmed those rumors today, as Microsoft also announced other sweeping layoffs and cost-cutting measures.
“When we first launched back in 2013, the commercial virtual reality market was in its infancy,” the company wrote, in a message to users. “Only the earliest of adopters owned a VR headset, and they mostly used them for immersive gaming. We knew virtual reality could be a fun place for games, but more importantly, we saw the power and potential of social VR to build community and bring a lot of humanity to the technology.”
During the pandemic, many consumers purchased headsets and moved their nightlife to the virtual world, and Altspace was essential. You could go out dancing, or to a comedy club, or invite friends over to the virtual apartment that Altspace provided for free. If you were ill with covid, you could still socialize in a vibrant, exciting world, a world in many ways better than the real one. If your friends lived in other cities, or in other countries, or, during the pandemic, if they lived nearby but were afraid to see you in person, you could still sit down across the table from them, or go out on the town. When a party got going in Altspace, it was more energetic and exciting than anything the real world could offer.
Importantly, even the physically repulsive — like Audere‘s hideous founding editor, Steven S. Drachman — could feel better about themselves in Altspace.
AltspaceVR was also notably superior to Mark Zuckerberg’s “Metaverse.” The worlds were more realistic and immersive, the events more creative and lifelike.
But with little or no discernible income — the Altspace events and worlds were free to set up, and generally free to attend — it was unclear where profit would ever come from. And once covid declined, and the world reopened, attendance within the app seemed to decline as well, the company seemed to grow less responsive, and the rumors began to circulate.
“We set out to create a place where people from across the globe could connect and socialize at live events, in real time,” the company wrote. “We developed (and integrated) technology to help foster a true sense of presence: expressive avatars, spatial sound, immersive environments. We wanted people to feel like they were together, even when oceans apart.”
Image: Steven S. Drachman, Audere Magazine’s bald and disgustingly ugly founding editor, attends an AltspaceVR PagodaScope party, in the guise of his more visually appealing avatar.