Which Social VR Platform Has Been the Most Successful at Raising Money?

Image by Capri23auto from Pixabay

There’s been a very interesting discussion taking place today on the RyanSchultz Discord server. One of the regular contributors to the many conversations that take place there, Michael Zhang, pulled together the following information from Crunchbase:

Today I Learned: Building social VR, MMOs, and virtual worlds are a lot more expensive than I imagined!

From Crunchbase:

-High Fidelity raised $72.9 million over five rounds and is struggling with their recent pivot to enterprise.
-Rec Room raised $29 million over two rounds, $24 million only recently, so they lived off of $5 million for several years.
-Altspace raised $15.7 million over three rounds, went bankrupt and shut down, then revived when bought by Microsoft.
-Bigscreen raised $14 million over two rounds.
-TheWaveVR raised $12.5 million over three rounds.
-vTime raised $7.6 million over one round.
-VRChat raised $5.2 million over two rounds.
-JanusVR raised $1.6 million over two rounds.
-Somnium Space raised $1 million over two rounds.

In comparison:

-Epic Games raised $1.6 billion over two rounds, $1.25 billion coming after Fortnite.
-Mojang’s Minecraft launched in 2003, started making profits in 2007, earned $237.7 million in revenue by 2012, and sold to Microsoft for $2.5 billion. (Wikipedia)
-Roblox raised $187.5 million over seven rounds.
-Linden Lab’s Second Life raised $19 million over two rounds.

Then, another contributor named Jin put together this graph to illustrate how successful the various social VR platforms have been in raising venture capital (please click on this picture to see it in full size on Flickr, or just click here). As you can see, High Fidelity is far and away the leader in raising money!

Social VR Platforms Raising Money

(In comparison, Decentraland raised 24 million dollars in their initial coin offering. Jin also made a second chart including Decentraland, but I have not included it here because, unlike the other platforms, it does not currently support VR, and it is unlikely to do so anytime in the near future.)

Thank you to Michael Zhang and to Jin for their work!

Spatiate: A Social Art Creation App for Augmented Reality

Andy Fidel has written up a nice summary of current VR/AR use in education in an article on Medium titled Using Immersive Tools & Spatial Networks (Social VR & Social AR) for Education & Remote Teaching. I’m happy to say that I have covered all the social VR platforms in this picture from Andy’s report on this blog!

But I noticed one app in his list of what he calls “spatial networks” that I hadn’t heard of before: Spatiate, which he describes as:

[An] augmented reality 3D art creation tool for drawing together across major devices such as iPhone, Android, and Magic Leap.

There’s precious little about the program on the official website, aside from this brief description and the following animated GIFs:

Create art in your 3D world: Paint without boundaries or screens in your physical world. The world is your canvas, allowing for freeform art and the experimentation of ideas.

Multi-user ideation across distance: Spatiate allows users to share co-presence and draw together. Whether in the same room or far away, users can create, prototype ideas, and share their own digital reality.

Unleash your creativity: Spatiate opens up a new avenue for creative expression. With a wide array of colors and brushes, paint the world and augment your reality.

Design 3D assets and prototypes: Create your three dimensional art and save for later. Whether it be a masterpiece or prototype, Spatiate makes it easier and more fun to design for 3D.

Apparently the product is already available for the Magic Leap One augmented reality (AR) headset, and it is coming soon to iOS and Android mobile devices.

Loveseat: A Theatrical Comedy VR Experience Taking Place in High Fidelity and at the Venice International Film Festival

Loveseat, a theatrical comedy VR experience, will be taking place on the social VR platform High Fidelity, with performances running from Aug. 27th to Sept. 7th, 2019. According to Eventbrite description:

Join the virtual audience in a ground-breaking theatrical VR experience.

Loveseat is a virtual reality comedy making its World Premiere at the 76th Venice International Film Festival and will be the first ever live play performed simultaneously to virtual and real world audiences.

The story: Two lonely, ordinary people are drawn into a reality show competition to win the love of a Perfect Partner (who looks an awful lot like an empty chair).

Part-story, part-interaction between virtual and real worlds, the actors perform simultaneously in front of a live audience in Venice and a virtual audience from around the world, connected thanks to the social VR platform, High Fidelity.

We hope you’ll join us for an hour of interactive, immersive VR theater starting August 27th.

Well, it is nice to know that High Fidelity has not completely abandoned its events programming! Mind you, this was probably all set up well in advance of the company’s abrupt pivot away from the consumer market and the shut-down of almost all of its event programming in April 2019. So this might be the last such event of its type in High Fidelity for quite some time. Although there is still an events calendar on their official website, it’s noticeably lacking the big-ticket events which the pre-pivot HiFi was known for, such as the FUTVRE LANDS Festival last November.

Loveseat is a production of Double Eye Studios of New York. This show grew out of Alive in Plasticland‘s one and a half years of experimentation with live actors in VR and involves their largest team of professional improv artists yet. Agile Lens, a New York VR/AR/XR creative studio, designed the theater, props, and lighting for Loveseat, according to a tweet about this production by Alex Coulombe, who is the creative director and co-founder of Agile Lens.

See you there! You can book tickets via Eventbrite, using your High Fidelity username.

WIRED Article on Building Virtual Worlds As a New Form of Self-Expression

Example of a game built in Dreams

Clive Thompson is a contributing editor at WIRED magazine and a journalist who writes about technology and science for the New York Times MagazineWIREDSmithsonian, and other publications. He has written an article that appears in the printed September 2019 issue of WIRED, but is also available to read on their website, titled Building Virtual Worlds Is a New Form of Self-Expression.

In it, he reports on a trend: people creating immersive, three-dimensional virtual worlds as a means of self-expression. To me, it’s not really a “trend”, since I have been immersed in virtual worlds since 2007. But he makes the point that virtual world building is starting to appeal to a broader, more mainstream audience:

For years, making immersive digital environments—for games or movies—was the province of pros. The tools were hard to use and expensive. But the story of media in the past 20 years has been one of creation tools becoming cheaper and easier to use, and then eventually going mass-market. Editing photos and video was once hard too, but now we do it as proficiently as we wield paper and pencil. As media scholar Katie Salen notes, “We’re culturally more literate with complex tools.”

With 3D design, too, there’s been a boomlet in software like Tinkercad and Sketchup, which lets hobbyists mess around with architectural and industrial design, and there’s Minecraft, where ordinary people can make and share lush, albeit blocky, environments. In many ways, people have tapped into the enjoyment of “world-building,” says media scholar Mimi Ito.

Example of a virtual world built in Dreams

While he does not talk about virtual worlds such as Second Life and social VR platforms such as Sansar, he does mention Dreams as an example of such a world-building tool. Dreams, by a company called Media Molecule, describes itself as:

Dreams is a space where you go to play and experience the dreams of Media Molecule and our community. It’s also a space in which to create your own dreams, whether they’re games, art, films, music or anything in-between and beyond.

Here’s a short trailer for Dreams, which is already available in Early Access on the PlayStation Store for US$39.99, to give you a sense of what you can do with the product:

Clive concludes his article by observing:

As more people become literate in 3D world-building, what will it mean for society? It’s easy to see this moving mainstream, much as image-meme culture did. What began as a bunch of teenagers using Microsoft Paint to mess around with cat photos in the early aughts had by 2016 become a powerful form of political rhetoric—Bernie Sanders with the Beatles (“DID SOMEONE SAY THEY WANT A REVOLUTION?”), Hillary Clinton as the Joker, Pepe the Frog as a fungible symbol for white supremacists.

Right now, world-building is limited by its walled-garden nature; you can only interact with someone’s creation inside the games themselves. But I could imagine these new forms becoming more easily shared outside those confines, at which point they’d metamorphose into a true public discourse—making virtual worlds a way to impact the real one.

And, as I say, a rising tide lifts all boats. Who’s to say that someone who starts off in Minecraft or Dreams, doesn’t decide to carry their newfound talents over to other virtual world and social VR platforms?

Thank you to Selby Evans for the heads up!