Microsoft Shuts Down Legendary VR Metaverse

AltspaceVR launched in 2013, and now it's winding down as the team moves over to work on Microsoft remote work software.  
Microsoft Shuts Down Legendary VR Metaverse AltspaceVR
Screenshot of AltspaceVR's Homepage

AltspaceVR, a social VR platform founded in 2013 and acquired by Microsoft in 2017, has just announced that it will be closing permanently. 

The platform, which featured user-generated spaces called “Worlds” and hosted live virtual events from a magic show to a red carpet premiere, connected people across the world. In an email to users, AltspaceVR cited the closure due to its parent company Microsoft’s decision to shift its focus onto launching Microsoft Mesh, a VR experience for Microsoft Teams, the company’s video conferencing platform. AltspaceVR will shut down on March 10. 

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“Over the past decade, our platform has played host to an astonishing array of virtual events and experiences: group meditations, LGBTQ+ meetups, faith-based gatherings, open mics, stand-up comedy, karaoke, concerts, and so much more. It has provided a space for people to explore their identities, express themselves, and find community,” AltspaceVR wrote in its email to users announcing the shutdown. “It has unlocked passions among users, provided incredible educational opportunities and pathways to personal growth, and inspired many to create unique and wonderful events, experiences, art, and Worlds. People have formed cherished friendships, found love, and even married IRL. Though it’s sad to say goodbye, we are heartened by the absolute magic that happened here.”

In 2016, Motherboard attended a weekly virtual club event called Echo Space hosted by AltspaceVR, where we got to first check out the servers used to produce the event and then join the party from his bedroom. Writer Aaron Frank wrote, “I appreciated how much Echo Space recreated the feeling of being at a club and now only wish more of my friends were ready to join. If VR becomes more widespread, I'll be down to meet up at the club—in my pajamas at home.” 

At the VR dance party, people were represented by different avatars and could express themselves by launching emojis into the sky and physically dancing, which was mimicked in the VR by their avatars. 

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AltspaceVR's closure comes at a time when metaverses are struggling. Metaverse experiences launched amid the now-muted Web3 hype were, even at the height of the crypto hysteria, janky and depopulated. Meta's Horizon Worlds VR metaverse project has been met, so far, by widespread ridicule over its graphics, lack of features, and generally its dubious reason for existing.

As Altspace VR comes to a close, the company is encouraging its community to host final events and download their content

According to AltspaceVR, the team will be shifting its focus to developing Microsoft Mesh, a new platform for remote workplace collaboration using VR. 

Microsoft acquired AltspaceVR in 2017 as part of an effort to advance in the metaverse after the VR company nearly closed due to financial difficulties. In February 2022, Microsoft further integrated the company after requiring all users to log in to the VR app using a Microsoft account.

“The decision [to shutter AltspaceVR] 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,” the Altspace VR press release said. “With Mesh, we aspire to build a platform that offers the widest opportunity to all involved, including creators, partners and customers.”