In a message posted today to their Steam page, CEO Adam Arrigo said:
We founded Wave almost five years ago to connect humanity through immersive music experiences. That journey started in the VR space, with our community-driven VR app on Steam, and it’s been rewarding watching our community of creators use our tools to host their own VR concerts. We never foresaw the incredible things people would create, and often attending those shows felt like peering into the future of live music / visual art performance and being blown away by the result.
Two years ago we pivoted out of VR into gaming and live-streaming, as the VR industry didn’t develop as quickly as we’d hoped. Artists need audiences to thrive, and we realized VR just wasn’t there yet, and there was a bigger opportunity for artists outside headsets. Even though it doesn’t fit our current business model, we’ve kept TheWaveVR app and servers running just because the community in there has made such inspiring stuff. Unfortunately, we built the user tools on top of Google Poly, which is shutting down.
As much as we’d love to, we aren’t able to spend the resources to build a new backend pipeline, since we are already spread so thin trying to accomplish our current set of non-VR objectives. We are still a relatively small startup. The hardest part of running a startup is choosing what to focus on, which has led us to the difficult decision to sunset TheWaveVR app on Steam and Oculus.
Even though this means the Wave VR shows will come to a pause, we think this is the best decision for the long term future of the Wave community, and we promise to do everything we can to one day bring back this experience in an even more evolved form. Thank you so much from the bottom of our hearts for joining us for all those multi-hour VR raves and for helping us craft this vision of the future of music and art. We hope you’ll join us for this next chapter!
I still vividly remember the live Lindsey Stirling concert I attended in Wave as a highlight of my social VR experiences in 2019 (here is my review). Like many companies, Wave had built a social VR platform for music events in anticipation of a sizeable consumer audience with high-end, tethered VR headsets, an audience which largely failed to materialize, leading to a pivot away from VR to gaming and livestreaming concerts.
It is notable that Wave would have kept their social VR platform going, were it not for Google deciding to shutter Google Poly, the 3D object platform on which it relied, which underscores the precariousness of corporations relying on external, third-party tools and services when building a metaverse product. Interestingly, the company had successfully raised $30 million in venture capital only seven months ago.
While I am sad to see Wave fold, I am not surprised. I suspect that we will see several similar announcements from other social VR companies this year.
Thanks to Michael Zhang for the tip!
UPDATE Jan. 16th, 2021: Alex Coulombe tweeted in response to this blogpost:
Ryan, I think your headline is misleading. My understanding is Wave isn’t shutting down, they’re just shutting down the ability to see their concerts in VR. They just launched a new website 3 days ago.
And I wanted to make it clear that Wave is only shutting down their social VR platform, but that they are continuing with their livestreaming business. Sorry for any confusion! I wish the company every success in their future endeavours.