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Look, I realize that I have been exceptionally cranky lately when it comes to High Fidelity. The company is just trying so hard to make its remote teamwork social VR platform a thing, but, sweet minty Jesus, I think they are failing (and flailing) big time.
I follow the High Fidelity corporate Twitter account, and this morning, somebody posted the following tweet:
Clicking through takes you to the High Fidelity Marketplace, where you can pick up Piper Peppercorn’s virtual coffee mug for 25 HFC (High Fidelity Coin):
So, the thinking here is something along the lines of: “Hey, we want to get people visiting and using High Fidelity, so I have an idea! Let’s promote various items from the Marketplace on Twitter! Somebody will want that coffee mug so much, that they will:
- download and install the High Fidelity client software;
- create an avatar;
- MAKE AN APPOINTMENT TO VISIT THE BANK to get some HFC;
- go shopping on the High Fidelity Marketplace and buy that coffee mug.”
I’m sorry, but that is a completely insane expectation. Between tweets for various objects for sale like this coffee mug and a scarf (yes, a scarf!), and numerous generic tweets about the joys and benefits of remote working, I am seriously starting to wonder what the hell is going on:
High Fidelity should stop trying to promote remote teamwork in general, and start focusing squarely on selling their platform. They are not going to convince any company to try using remote workers through these ineffective tweets. If they think this will actually make any sort of difference with executive decision makers, they are sadly mistaken.
The virtual coworking island cam fiasco is a perfect example of a company seemingly completely adrift, without any clear indication that they know what to do, or how to market themselves. It took two days—two days—for the company to even notice that its livestreams had no audio. And the livestreams hardly showed off the platform in its best light, even though they have some innovative product features such as spatialized audio. Nobody is going to watch these videos and think, “Hey, this is cool! I want this for my business!”
High Fidelity is one of the clients of a professional PR company, called Firebrand Communications; do they not listen to their advice at all? Or is this the best advice they are being given at this point? (One blog reader astutely pointed out that any good PR company would be monitoring mentions of their clients on social media and blogs, and stepping in when somebody posts highly critical, deeply negative blogposts like I have written about High Fidelity recently. That’s what PR companies do.)
High Fidelity is a sinking ship, and it just breaks my heart. I’m just going to come right out and say this: I now believe that the company is doomed. Their user forums are a virtual ghost town (nobody has posted anything for a week now, a troubling sign). Many people, like Jason Moore of the MetMovie Project, have abandoned HiFi for other social VR platforms. You load up the HiFi client and visit, and except for a few events like the weekly salon hosted by DrFran, the platform is empty.
High Fidelity is a case that should be studied at university business schools of how not to treat your existing userbase, and how not to promote yourself to try and get new customers. High Fidelity desperately needs help, particularly when it comes to marketing and public relations, and I’m not sure that they are going to get that help before they run out of the millions of dollars of venture capital they received, and simply close up shop.
So, what do you think? Please feel free to leave a comment below or, as always, you are welcome to join the freewheeling conversations, arguments, and debates about social VR and virtual worlds taking place on the RyanSchultz.com Discord server, the first cross-worlds discussion forum! We’d love to see you there.
3 thoughts on “Editorial: Why I Think High Fidelity is Doomed”
Ryan, indeed the marketing could be improved. But Hifi is still the best open source solution out there. Has great audio, is scalable, is decentralized and is one of the few platforms that doesnt use unity for an engine. I compare it to the wild west. There office thing is just an implementation of there codebase. Anyone can use the codebase to use it to develop their own implementation. You would think that the remote work thing is a dead end but there are so many companies also wanting to try that (even facebook wants it) that there must be some merit in it.
Hi Ryan, I find it interesting that you posted this because a VR Twitter person I follow asked if 2019 was the lights out for social VR. They said, “So far, High Fidelity, Sansar, Oculus Rooms, and Facebook Spaces are shutting down or shifting away from VR. Are there any other #virtualreality platforms/worlds/apps that have closed in 2019?”
Remote Teamwork is a thing, and I know of and have consulted Silicon Valley companies that do it daily/weekly. Although I’m not a High Fidelity user, but there is nothing wrong with them selling their platform to or for corporate,industry, education, and therapy use. That is what I’ve been doing for over 15 years now with virtual worlds whether it involved VR equipment or not. Remote Teamwork has always been there in back rooms and in virtual campuses since the beginning. Mainly because they need private rooms, private servers, and even private grids to conduct business or education for uninterruption and safety. Its bigger than you may realize, and I personally feel its way cooler than non-productive VR socializing, when we are working towards something or having a learning experience.
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