Microsoft's plans for the so-called metaverse takes a step back as it is shuttering its social virtual reality platform AltspaceVR. The metaverse-like platform has faced challenges before but this time things look terminal.
That's because Microsoft is making huge cuts to its spending, which will affect thousand of its employees. It is laying off 10,000 of its staff with its game division seeing signficiant cuts as studios such as The Coalition, Bethesda Game Studios, and 343 Industries reduce their workforce. And it is also closing down teams in the AR and VR segment of its business.
In 2017 AltspaceVR revealed that it lacked the funds to keep its servers on, despite being one of the most popular social VR platforms, but then Microsoft swooped in and acquired the company (via PC Gamer). In recent years large tech companies have shown interest in the metaverse, a concept pertaining to a shared virtual reality space, with the likes of Tencent, Google, Alibaba, Amazon, ByteDance, and Facebook, which even changed its name to Meta to indicate its seriousness, all investing in R&D. Microsoft was among those interested but as tech faces a crunch, with massive layoffs in the sector, perhaps the shine is starting to come off the idea.
AltspaceVR announced that it will sunset the platform om March 10, in a blog post on its site. "When AltspaceVR first launched, our vision was to create a place where people from around the world could connect and socialise in real time," the post begins. But as AltspaceVR looks to the future it seems the best way to do that is to sunset its platform and shift its focus to support Microsoft Mesh.
Microsoft Mesh is the new brand for the company's metaverse projects and which enables users to share experiences from anywhere, on any device, through mixed reality applications apparently. It also uses 3D captures for holograms to enable people to work together as if they were in the same space, but it is a much more business and professional orientated product than AltspaceVR.
The VR platform was known for its lively and dynamic spaces, with club nights featuring DJs, fashion shows, book launches, stand-up comedy, parties, and gatherings for many kinds of niches and interests. AltspaceVR encouraged users to host final events and download their content in the time left before it closes down.