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.)
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.
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.
Have you joined the RyanSchultz.com Discord yet? You’re invited to join over 700 people from around the world, representing every social VR platform and flatscreen virtual world, who discuss, debate, and argue about the ever-evolving metaverse and the many companies building it! More details here.
In a disappointing piece of news, it appears that the popular Microsoft-owned social VR platform AltspaceVR has dropped support for the Valve Index virtual reality headset (which is, of course, the one I currently use at home). All mention of the Valve Index has been removed from the documentation on its website:
It worked a year ago, but now when I try to start up the app using the Index, the login screen is skewed and distorted and appears on the bottom right of my field-of-view. Totally unusable now. So no more AltspaceVR for me.
Another noted, “It’s not even on the website anymore, I wonder why they keep it as supported on Steam, it confuses users.”
Just saw the new blog post, the Valve Index was never listed as a supported headset anywhere except for the Steam page and that was only because it was automatically added to all SteamVR games when the Index launched. I’ve been asking for Index support ever since I got mine in 2019, but I was always ignored. So they didn’t drop support for it, they never supported it in the first place. It somewhat worked, but the controllers were seen as Vive wands, so it wasn’t great. I had a much better experience using Revive to get into AltspaceVR, since the Index controllers match up with the Oculus controllers.
In the wake of the ongoing cryptocrash, and the falling dominoes of crypto firms, I have been spending a bit of time lately learning more about the blockchain space, hanging out in various Reddit communities where such matters are discussed. As I commented on one post:
Crypto culture is kinda fascinating in a train wreck kind of way.
Hello everyone! Recently, we’ve received some feedback from members of the community asking for clarification and transparency regarding Mojang Studios and Minecraft’s position on NFTs (non-fungible tokens) and blockchain.
While we are in the process of updating our Minecraft Usage Guidelines to offer more precise guidance on new technologies, we wanted to take the opportunity to share our view that integrations of NFTs with Minecraft are generally not something we will support or allow.
First and foremost – this out-of-nowhere announcement by Microsoft/Minecraft to outright ban all possible uses of NFTs & blockchain tech within Minecraft feels like a step backwards in innovation, and may even have painful downstream effects for them in the long run—we’ll see how that plays out.
Regardless, we’re working through this internally and have all hands on deck brainstorming solutions around the Minecraft EULA changes, as well as outright pivots for the NFT Worlds ecosystem and team if necessary.
Our order of operations in figuring this out is as follows.
We’re working to get in contact with the right decision makers within the Minecraft policy enforcement team as well as the general Minecraft studio to understand the details of this policy change, what the true internal motivators may have been, and how if at all we can find an alternative outcome that’s beneficial to the Minecraft player base as well as Microsoft’s vested interest in Blockchain / NFT technology and GameFi.
In the event after the above conversations we come to the conclusion we can continue to operate, the show goes on as it’s been.
However, if we’re truly banned because of the risk of C&D/DMCA/Lawsuit by Minecraft/Microsoft from innovating on top of the Minecraft ecosystem, we move forward, we pivot.
The first option from here is we transition into our own Minecraft-like game engine & games platform. There’s been dozens of minecraft-like game engines developed over the last decade by various 3rd party teams – These were people wanting to innovate beyond the idea of Minecraft and add their own spin on it. This option means acquiring one of these engines & development teams to join us, and developing on top of it to bring the same vision for NFT Worlds to fruition but with Minecraft & Microsoft entirely out of the picture with no ability to stop us.
The second option is a pivot to a GameFi platform as a service for any game developer or games studio to effortlessly implement the same proven, patent pending, friction removing tech for GameFi we’ve developed over the last year and have intentionally generalized the last 9 months in the event we decided to or needed to branch out into a GameFi platform. All the systems that we’ve already built would be extremely quick and easy for us to pivot to an implementation for anyone to use. The other interesting piece here is as soon as the Minecraft news was announced, we’ve had multiple other metaverse / gamefi projects immediately reaching out to us wanting to use this tech we’ve already proven, strongly kickstarting possible adoption of such a platform. If we go this route, existing NFT Worlds, $WRLD and Genesis Avatar holders would have an equivalent stake via token and/or NFT(s) related to this platform based on their NFT Worlds related holdings once launched.
Like always, we’d love to hear our community’s opinion on everything presented above.
Bottom line, we’re not leaving. We have the community, we have the war chest, and we know we can build.
Clearly, people are into it — NFT Worlds has already generated $90 million in trading [on Opensea], even though it gave the 10,000 worlds away for free and only makes money from “royalties and secondary sales.” Worlds are currently going for a minimum of $45,000.
TL;DR: We want Microsoft to know they are wrong, and we are innovators. If they don’t allow the project, we will make our own, better Minecraft with blackjack and hookers.
Another Redditor responded:
Wow, imagine running a business totally dependent on someone else, yet being caught unaware on major business decision of this entity on whom you completely dependent upon.
Sounds like just the way people in crypto do business…with zero awareness of whats going on around them.
Seriously…how on earth do you build a company whose business model goes out the window with a single decision by the corporation who RUNS THE PLATFORM THEY’RE DEPENDENT UPON?!?? This is a prime example of a harebrained, half-baked cryptoscheme that somebody hatched up and was able to earn a tidy profit from, selling highly volatile, speculative blockchain-based assets to ignorant customers, who perhaps thought that they would be able to sell them for a profit to the next fool who comes along. It’s maddening.
In our Minecraft Usage Guidelines, we outline how a server owner can charge for access, and that all players should have access to the same functionality. We have these rules to ensure that Minecraft remains a community where everyone has access to the same content. NFTs, however, can create models of scarcity and exclusion that conflict with our Guidelines and the spirit of Minecraft.
To ensure that Minecraft players have a safe and inclusive experience, blockchain technologies are not permitted to be integrated inside our client and server applications, nor may Minecraft in-game content such as worlds, skins, persona items, or other mods, be utilized by blockchain technology to create a scarce digital asset. Our reasons follow.
Some companies have recently launched NFT implementations that are associated with Minecraft world files and skin packs. Other examples of how NFTs and blockchain could be utilized with Minecraft include creating Minecraft collectible NFTs, allowing players to earn NFTs through activities performed on a server, or earning Minecraft NFT rewards for activities outside the game.
Each of these uses of NFTs and other blockchain technologies creates digital ownership based on scarcity and exclusion, which does not align with Minecraft values of creative inclusion and playing together. NFTs are not inclusive of all our community and create a scenario of the haves and the have-nots. The speculative pricing and investment mentality around NFTs takes the focus away from playing the game and encourages profiteering, which we think is inconsistent with the long-term joy and success of our players.
Amen. 100%! CRYPTO ADDS NOTHING TO MINECRAFT! (I can’t believe I am cheering for Microsoft here…)
As I have editorialized before, a harsh, long, bitter crypto winter is going to shake out a lot of sketchy companies with poorly-thought-out plans, like NFT Worlds.
*To see this message, you will have to join the NFT Worlds Discord, which requires you to jump through a few hoops to verify that you’re a human being. I joined just to get a copy of the announcement, but I might stick around as a lurker, just to see how the company and its users attempt to spin this disaster 😉
†Seriously, if you haven’t checked out r/Buttcoin yet, please do so, along with Molly White excellent website, Web3 Is Going Just Great (the title is meant to be sarcastic), which outlines the latest crises, hoaxes, scams, and fiascoes in the blockchain space, keeping a running total of money lost to date in a ticker in the bottom right-hand corner.
Have you joined the RyanSchultz.com Discord yet? You’re invited to be a part of the first ever cross-worlds discussion group, with over 600 people participating from every social VR platform and virtual world! We discuss, debate and argue about the ever-evolving metaverse, its avatars, and all the companies building it. Come join us! More details here.
Hard on the heels of Facebook (now Meta) and their Connect 2021 event comes today’s Microsoft Ignite 2021, where Microsoft shows off some of the technology they’re working on. And, of course, give their own spin on the metaverse!
Here’s a seven-minute clip from Ignite of Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella talking about his vision for the metaverse:
Microsoft is entering the race to build a metaverse inside Teams, just days after Facebook rebranded to Meta in a push to build virtual spaces for both consumers and businesses. Microsoft is bringing Mesh, a collaborative platform for virtual experiences, directly into Microsoft Teams next year. It’s part of a big effort to combine the company’s mixed reality and HoloLens work with meetings and video calls that anyone can participate in thanks to animated avatars.
With today’s announcement, Microsoft and Meta seem to be on a collision course to compete heavily in the metaverse, particularly for the future of work.
And—if you’re having a bad hair day—hey, no worries!
Microsoft Teams will get new 3D avatars in a push toward a metaverse environment, and you won’t need to put a VR headset on to use them. These avatars can literally represent you both in 2D and 3D meetings, so you can choose to have an animated version of yourself if you’re not feeling like turning your webcam on.
If you’re worried the metaverse will be all fun and games, fear not: Microsoft Corp. is taking its own stab at the idea, and it will have PowerPoint and Excel.
The company is adapting its signature software products to create a more corporate version of the metaverse — a concept promoted by Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg that promises to let users live, work and play within interconnected virtual worlds.
The first offering, a version of Microsoft’s Teams chat and conferencing program that features digital avatars, is in testing now and will be available in the first half of 2022. Customers will be able to share Office files and features, like PowerPoint decks, in the virtual world.
Of course, most people already know that Microsoft acquired the social VR platform AltspaceVR in 2017 (which, by the way, is still absolutely killing it with live events programming!). Altspace is being used for a variety of purposes, including higher education (for example, teaching a psychology course at Mount Royal University).