UPDATED! Wave, the Social VR Music Platform, Is Shutting Down

Wave (formerly known variously as Wave XR, TheWaveXR, and TheWaveVR) has announced in a notice posted to their Facebook group that they are shutting down their service:

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!

The Lindsey Stirling concert in Wave was a highlight of 2019 for me

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.

Editorial: The Rapidly Changing Face of the Music Industry—What Sansar Is Doing Wrong (and Fortnite Is Doing Right)

Earlier this year, after an extended break, I rejoined the official Sansar Discord server, and while I have not nearly been as active there as I used to be, I still lurk from time to time. I had a good laugh at this snippet of conversation from the day before yesterday (and yes, I do have both Medhue’s and Vassay’s permission to quote them, and to post this image here on the blog):

Medhue: Literally, Ryan Schultz does more marketing for Sansar than Sansar does.

Vassay: Funniy (sadly) enough, that’s true.

Medhue: IMHO, we have a bunch of people who live in the past, when music was a 50 billion dollar industry. It is not anymore, and likely won’t ever be again. Gaming has always been growing and there are really no signs of it slowing, grabbing more and more of the entertainment market each year.

Wookey has been strangely silent since its purchase of Sansar, and their team have been largely absent from the Sansar Discord. And yes, it is indeed true: even though I barely write about Sansar at all now on this blog, I still do more promotion of Sansar than Sansar does! This relative lack of marketing activity is frankly baffling to me. After all, the often ineffective marketing of Sansar by Linden Lab contributed to the difficulties it encountered in enticing people to visit the platform—and keep them coming back for return visits, a key indicator of success.

As you might know, the money-losing Sansar was recently sold by Linden Lab to Wookey. Many Linden Lab staffers who worked on Sansar moved over to Wookey, including Sheri Bryant, who was Vice President of Strategic Business Development and Marketing and then General Manager at Linden Lab, and is now President of Wookey Technologies (LinkedIn profile). She is widely credited with saving Sansar by setting up its sale to Wookey, and it is under her management that Sansar has significantly shifted its primary focus from a VR-enabled platform for world builders and content creators (i.e. a second-generation Second Life), to a VR-enabled live events venue.

An example of the recent shift in emphasis in Sansar (from the Sansar website)

While a quick glance at the Sansar Events calendar shows that the deal Linden Lab previously struck with Monstercat to bring live musical events into Sansar has continued now that the platform is owned by Wookey, the company is going to have to do a lot more work to attract musical artists to give virtual concerts in Sansar.

Let’s contrast the modest success that Sansar has had with Monstercat with what has been happening on other virtual world and game platforms in recent years:

In addition, both Microsoft-owned AltspaceVR (which has recently announced a pivot to live events) and the ever-popular VRChat (which is already home to popular talk shows such as ENDGAME, and many other regular live events) are no doubt eyeing the possibility of hosting live concerts on their platforms. And let’s not forget the upcoming Facebook Horizon social VR platform, where Facebook will probably take what the company has learned over the past couple of years with Oculus Venues, and where they will want to sign their own exclusive deals with musical performers to entice people to visit their platform after it launches.

And this is the important point: some profitable companies with very deep pockets—Epic Games (the makers of Fortnite), Microsoft, and Facebook to name just three examples—are going to want to get into this potentially lucrative market. Smaller companies like Wookey, trying to shop around Sansar as a live events platform, are going to find themselves outbid by companies like Epic Games to bring in top talent, which of course brings in more users to Fortnite. It’s a vicious circle; the big players get bigger, while the small ones fight each other for the leftovers.

Following on from Medhue’s point in the quote above, the music industry has already seen many changes and gone through many wrenching shifts in how it operates and how it makes money in the past (notably, the shift away from physical media like CDs to the now-ubiquitous music streaming services). But now the gaming industry is bigger than both the music and movie businesses combined!

The coronavirus pandemic has shuttered real-world concert arenas for the foreseeable future, which has only increased the economic pressure on the management representing the artists to sign deals with various metaverse-building companies in order to host virtual concerts and events. There’s probably already a lot of activity going on behind the scenes that we can’t see, but I expect we shall see quite a few announcements for virtual concerts with major musical artists, as well as many smaller artists, over the next six months.

Where Fortnite is already running circles around Sansar, even at this very early stage of the game, is their ability to sign deals with the highest level of talent (using all those billions of dollars of profit earned from their games like Fortnite), and their ability to host massive live events for millions of attendees (again, leveraging off their technical know-how to build and maintain the necessary infrastructure to support millions of Fortnite players playing the game simultaneously all around the world).

One thing that Wookey could be and should be doing for Sansar is promotion—and yet they are leaving it to bloggers like me to talk about the product. Where is the marketing? If they are holding off on marketing, waiting until they land some big-name events, I think that would be a tactical error.

Wookey needs to get Sansar’s name out there; many people in our attention-deficient society still have no idea that the platform even exists. Yet everybody and their grandmother has heard of Fortnite by now. That is no accident. Epic Games did a masterful job of fanning the flames of user interest. Wookey should be taking notes.

If no action is taken, Sansar is going to continue on its downward trajectory, slowly circling the drain, and eventually will fold. Linden Lab has already made many grievous errors in trying to effectively promote the platform; Will Wookey continue making the same mistakes?

Cas and Chary Cover Five Social VR Platforms (Including Sansar)

Most of the people making YouTube videos about virtual reality hardware and software are men, so it is refreshing to find a new (well, new to me, anyways) channel about VR run by two women, called Cas and Chary VR.

Last week, Cas published a 10-minute YouTube video tour of five less popular social VR platforms, explaining:

So we all know VRChat, Rec Room, [and] AltspaceVR. This video isn’t about these games. It’s about 5 others that you might have missed.

The five platforms covered in this video include:

Videos like this are useful because they give viewers a look at platforms that they might not have had an opportunity to visit themselves. I was surprised to find that Sansar was a sponsor for this video. Cas says:

DISCLAIMER: This video was sponsored by Sansar. Per our guidelines, no review direction was received from them. Our opinions are our own.

I think it’s smart that Linden Lab is reaching out to YouTube influencers like Cas and Chary with sponsorship opportunities. As I have written before, social VR companies will likely have to turn to influencers more often in future to promote their products more effectively.

Review: Lindsey Stirling Concert in Wave

I took the afternoon off work to catch the electronic violinist, Lindsey Stirling, perform a live show in Wave at 2:00 p.m. Central Time.

Lindsey wore a full-body 3D motion capture suit and special VR gloves, which allowed her to completely animate her avatar in Wave, from her head down to her feet (including each individual finger on her hands), as she played and danced!

The concert was wonderful! She played several of the songs from her soon-to-be-released album, Artemis, for the first time before a live audience. As she played, the stage around her would transform itself into different designs, and sometimes, particle effects (like red leaves) would swirl around her. It was a mesmerizing performance!

Here is the entire performance captured on YouTube. The special effects were wonderful, and they really added to the overall fantasy atmosphere! (They updated this video, so I reposted the link below so that it should start at the very beginning of the video. If it doesn’t work for you, just scroll back to the very start of this video to catch the start of Lindsey’s performance, thanks!)

I especially liked how people’s comments were displayed as bright lights at the intervals between songs, while Lindsey talked to the crowd in attendance (you can see all their avatars in parts of this performance). I’m assuming these were the comments posted by the YouTube viewers, but I’m not sure. It was a wonderful experience!

Here’s a link that should connect you to all the different places you can watch the concert! I understand that this concert will only be available for 24 hours and after that, it’s gone. So please don’t wait to go see it!