High Fidelity Dismisses Half of Its Workforce, App to be Removed from Stores in 2020
High Fidelity’s dream of a VR metaverse is coming to and end as the startup lays off half of its staff for the second time this year and makes the decision to take the Social VR platform off the market. CEO Philip Rosedale announced via a blog post.
High Fidelity was founded in 2013 and in the beginning, the startup raised more than $70 million in funding to develop a metaverse. In May, it was revealed that the company was already in trouble following the decision by High Fidelity CEO Philip Rosedale to dismiss 20 of the company’s 80 employees.
Rosedale announced the decision to lay off half of its staff via a blog post posted yesterday. This is High Fidelity’s second pivot this year. The company laid off 25% of its staff in May this year as it shifted focus from developing the virtual reality “metaverse” to a narrow aim of building its technology for the virtual office spaces.
According to Rosedale, High Fidelity is planning to use its technology as its primary virtual office but the company has decided that it will not commercialize the virtual workplace application for the time being. Rosedale says that in spite of the fact that remote work continues to see a strong growth trajectory and it already has customers using the technology, the limited market opportunity at the moment does not justify additional development.
Due to this, High Fidelity has decided to stop work on its virtual reality platform. It is also withdrawing its Early Access apps from both Steam and Oculus stores as of January 15. However, the company will continue maintaining its blockchain and High Fidelity stablecoin cryptocurrency. However, the company will not be cashing out users’ HFC after the date and it will close the marketplace where users can spend the stablecoin.
In spite of the pivot, CEO Rosedale has stated that the company is not giving up entirely on its virtual worlds concept and the company already has a new direction although he did not specific details on this. Rosedale stated that a team at the company is already working on a new internal project which will be shared with the public once it is ready. Because the new project is different and still in early development, High Fidelity has had to halve the size of its team which includes developers, designers, marketers, program managers and support professionals.
High Fidelity’s CTO Brad Hefta-Gaub is also set to leave the company although his departure isn’t related to the current restructuring.
High Fidelity will make its Github repository private from January 15, 2020 to provide the community with enough time to create their own repositories as well as systems.
A few years back, it was expected that there would be more than a million daily virtual reality users by 2019. In fact, there are only tens of thousands of users at the moment.
A metaverse with no users
High Fidelity switched from its virtual reality metaverse product to building software for virtual offices with the virtual reality functionality being optional. Now that is has failed, the technology will not be commercialized as the business potential does not justify further development of the product.
The VR office has now been phased out while its Social VR platform High Fidelity will be permanently removed from the Steam and Oculus Store by January 15, 2020. The same applies to the company’s recently released avatar app Virtual You.
High Fidelity isn’t the only metaverse project to have flopped on the virtual reality marketplace. In November 2019, the studio behind the life simulation experience Second Life, Linden Lab, also offloaded more than 20 employees of its Sansar team.
Sansar was to continue the concept of the PC-based 2D life simulation in virtual reality. However, the metaverse failed to materialize. Linden Lab will subsequently shift its focus to monitoring developments in the metaverse. The Sansar project still continues albeit in a lean format.
Facebook also has a social VR platform known as Horizon that launches in spring and it will be interesting to see how this platform will perform where others have failed.
You can read the full blog post of the High Fidelity announcement on the restructuring on its website.
With the shutdown, you can consider other replacements such as VRChat which offers an open-ended option and is available on all the major PC VR headsets, on Oculus Quest as well as on non-VR PCs.