Wave had a milestone year in 2020 and 2021 looks to be even bigger with their virtual entertainment experiences.
*UPDATE [1/20/2021]: This article has been updated to correct several statements regarding the companies recent press release. We’ve also made corrections to information regarding specific live performances conducted by the company as well as specific investments.*
When Wave launched in 2016, it served as this incredible VR platform that brought people together through virtual entertainment. It merged VR with music to create these over-the-top VR performances impossible to reproduce in the real-world. It even caught the attention of Grammy winning artists such as The Weekend and John Legend, who both performed on the social platform.
In June of 2020, Wave announced it had raised $30 million in series B funding. Towards the end of 2020, Rolling Stone wrote a story about Justin Bieber and The Weekend investing in the company, and Wave CEO Adam Arrigo found himself listed on Rolling Stone’s Future 25 list.
Things looked incredibly bright and exciting for the “interstellar music festival.”
Now, 15 days into 2021, Arrigo tweeted out a press release stating that the company will be shutting down their Wave App on the Steam and the Oculus Store, ending their VR phase. So, what changed?
Not seeing the VR adoption they were initially hoping for, the company pivoted away from immersive tech in 2018 in favor of gaming and live-streamed events because, according to Arrigo, “the VR industry didn’t develop as quickly as we’d hoped.” To his point, VR headsets still aren’t a household item, even with more affordable all-in-one headsets like the Oculus Quest 2 now widely available to consumers.
But here’s the thing, Wave actually benefited from this shift. 2020 was a milestone year for the company, working with bigger artists, reaching millions of fans, and raising significant funds. Their business exploded after they pivoted out of VR. They’re just weren’t enough users to build a solid business. Virtual concerts hosted on live stream platforms and within popular video games, on the other hand, have been pulling in bigger crowds.
Another reason for shutting down their VR app, Wave built all of their user tools via Google Poly, which will soon be shutting down. Instead of using funds to rebuild their user tools on a new platform, they chose to use their funds to focus on new initiatives that will help artists connect with a much larger global audience.
Talking with VRScout, Social VR Researcher Michael Zhang said, “TheWaveXR served as the role model of what social VR concerts could be,” Zhang adds, “Their recent pivot is a harsh reminder of the difficulty of scaling social VR apps. I wish the team the best of luck!”
Twitter also reacted to the news of Wave shutting down their VR App with people around the world chiming in.
In a tweet from Lucas Rizzotto, he points out that the company focused more on established stars rather than focusing on the community; instead of empowering users, they were empowering the industry. Rizzotto goes on in another tweet saying, “It went from being this crazy, forward-thinking social platform to a studio big companies hire to do a cool livestream every now and then.”
This may not be a success story for VR, but it is a huge success story for Wave. That move into a VR adjacent space had an enormous positive impact on the company, and because of that, they are seeing a ton of success.
So what is next for Wave? Are they abandoning VR shows for good? Arrigo says, “VR shows will come to a pause,” and says they hope to someday be able to revisit this and bring it back in an even more evolved form.
For now, Wave will pick up where they left off at the end of 2020 and will continue to work with big artists and will move forward delivering some of the most interactive virtual entertainment experiences through gaming and social platforms such as Twitch, YouTube, Twitter, TikTok and Roblox. One last thing to add, the company recently announced a massive partnership and investment from Tencent Music Entertainment, a leading online music entertainment platform in China.
“Wave is committed to bringing our interactive virtual entertainment experiences to music fans around the world, and TME is the ideal partner to accelerate these efforts,” said Jarred Kennedy, COO of Wave in an official press release, adding “We share the belief that gaming technology will dramatically expand the breadth of possibility for creative expression and audience interaction in music, and we are thrilled to be collaborating with TME to build that future.”
Image Credit: TheWaveXR