Wave, the virtual venue & virtual event production company formerly known as TheWaveVR, has moved away from virtual reality over the last two years in favor of distributing its virtual performances to a broader audience through non-immersive media channels. The company today announced that it has “de-prioritized” its VR app, which will officially shut down at the end of March. Wave says the move will allow it to focus on bringing “more fans [to] experience our virtual events on popular streaming platforms.”

Founded in 2016, Wave has raised some $40 million in venture capital, according to Crunchbase, to chase its vision of virtual concerts as the future of music performances. The company has produced virtual events headlined by well known artists like John Legend and Lindsey Stirling. Performances are rendered in real-time, with artists donning mo-cap suits and face-tracking tech to bring their likeness into the virtual world as their avatars perform in fantastical virtual venues.

Image courtesy Wave

At the outset, the company’s platform was built to be immersive and interactive—even allowing users to host their own performances—with audiences joining the venue via virtual reality through the Wave Beta app which launched on Steam in 2017 and Oculus PC in 2018.

But with VR’s relatively slow adoption, the company realized it wasn’t reaching the scale of audience that it needed. Wave began focusing its efforts on broadcasting the virtual productions beyond virtual reality so that a wider audience could enjoy the show. Now the company says its fully focused on delivering virtual productions through traditional channels, like livestreams, and will be shutting down its VR app at the end of March.

The primary reason, the company maintains, is that part of its VR app relies on Google’s 3D model hosting platform, Poly (which itself is shutting down); Wave says it doesn’t have the resources to build a new solution into the app. The company contends that its best option is to shutter the app for now, and promises to do “everything we can to one day bring back [the VR experience] in an even more evolved form.”

Wave CEO & co-founder Adam Arrigo publicly shared the following note:

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 ti 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.

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Ben is the world's most senior professional analyst solely dedicated to the XR industry, having founded Road to VR in 2011—a year before the Oculus Kickstarter sparked a resurgence that led to the modern XR landscape. He has authored more than 3,000 articles chronicling the evolution of the XR industry over more than a decade. With that unique perspective, Ben has been consistently recognized as one of the most influential voices in XR, giving keynotes and joining panel and podcast discussions at key industry events. He is a self-described "journalist and analyst, not evangelist."
  • Kevin White

    Sign of the times…

  • Madeleine Adele Thomas

    A community member has been writing the API replacement for Google Poly for WaveXR, but that would not even matter. This was a planned sunset long ago. The time came finally. The community of Wave only ever existed in VR. No company has a community in a streaming platform. Individuals and creators make that happen, people do. Having 8000 fans of an artist watch something on your platform doesn’t make them your community any more than me attending a concert at the Royal Albert Hall makes me part of a ‘community’ We built that, the Residents along with the members of the creative community. I agree, non immersive environments can be their business model, but I do not see that panning out as anything , to paraphrase Jean Michael Jarre recently, without some kind of social and interactive presence, it’s just a glorified stream. Even if you work Zoom call function into it. “Virtual” is thrown around too much for things not even remotely virtual.

    • Jeff Axline

      Thanks for sharing this. I never saw things from this “community” perspective and it makes a ton of sense.

    • Since you talked about JMJ, I was one of the devs of the concert. The spectators on youtube+tv+chinese media etc were in the end like 1000x the ones in VRChat. And we had very good numbers in VRChat! Wave is a startup that must justify its decisions to investors… and investors follow the market. If videos have a bigger market than VR, they make you cut out VR. That thing about Google Poly is clearly an excuse.
      But people that watched the event in video and inside VRChat, told me that the VRChat version was MUCH MUCH better, it felt more real, more immersive. So yes, I agree with you that video performances are not the future at all.

  • Evol Love

    Their failure was to never even try to make a profit from their community. Never fixing feature breaking bugs and just a general lack of love to the community. Which ultimately provided them the opportunity to appeal to major artists.

    However they had something amazing, that sadly they let rot and die…

    • Madeleine Adele Thomas

      The harsher truth. I cannot disagree on any of that, I’m afraid.

      • Evol Love

        Yeah, I’m really bummed out about this cause I’ve really missed swinging Poi while enjoying all the talented community members perform. However Poi has been a broken feature for what 2 years? It just crushed my soul everytime I logged in and Poi was broken and then my mic almost never worked, or I was a chipmunk due to never adding support for Valve Index. Back in the day it was really amazing, it felt like an old school rave vibe and the community was alway just full of beautiful people. Everybody came out to dance too, not just hang out and chat ignoring the show, but I digress on that subject.

  • Jeff Axline

    This makes me sad. Wave was one of those demo apps that I could wow first timers with while showing a new art form in VR with huge potential for music/art. It was mighty impressive and I will miss it. Unfortunately it was too much beauty to be scaled down to Quest levels of performance so it was doomed anyway. That’s going to be the way of VR for the next few years for everyone.

  • DanDei

    I remember waiting in the VR lobby for the John Legend thing to start just to find out that it is only a 2D event. Watched a bit of that: utterly boring and in no way a new or special or even interesting way to experience concerts. Why would I watch a clunky mocap version of an artist in a rather low poly flat environment when I can have 4K video from whole concerts? Apparently Wave didn’t even understand what made their own vision/product fascinating and appealing. I want top artists to take me on a musical journey right into (!) impossible but expressive and beautifull environments that react and change to the music. They achieved a good bit of that with some of the VR events I saw but the effect is completely lost when they try to bring it back to monitors.
    What a stupid company.

  • Celeste Lear

    As a Wave VR creator and fan, I have to express my sorrow and also honestly, my ANGER in general at the corporate agenda that consistently sacrifices real art and strong underground community in their chase for the bottom line. IF a company gets $40 million in funding, WHY can it not allocate a bit more towards nursing along a program that is a fraction of the cost, already built and running and does definitely offer possibilities for monetization in the future? Another reason why companies like this lose their soul when they sign the dotted line :(

    • Madeleine Adele Thomas

      We appreciate the effort that you and the rest of the community put in to Wave. People of all levels came together to create experiences, it was wonderful. The Resident team recognizes that community wouldn’t exist with that passion, and we we all worked hard to teach and collaborate with new people that came along, even late like yourself. We never gave up on what we knew was a dying app. ♥

      • asd

        nah you just slapped us all in the face Fcuk you

        • Madeleine Adele Thomas

          For your clarification, I”m talking about the Resident DJ team. I did all this unpaid for 2 years, and I am not part of WaveXR except in that capacity. I’ve dedicated thousands of hours into creating free shows every 2 weeks now, and sometimes more often. All for passion and to bring others happiness. SO please, redirect your hate at someone else. I”m just as sad and screwed as anyone else, likely more so for all I’ve given to promote that app for so long.

  • Kevin White

    What ever happened to Cabbibo? I loved some of his VR experiments. He shared a few things with me almost five years ago such as Li’l Hydra. I even still load up Blarp! every once in a while. He moved over to TheWave. Is he still there?

    • Jeff Axline

      I see his work in other places. Big fan of his. Check out Museum of Other Realities. It’s a VR art museum. Some nice work in there. Also http://cabbibo.com/

      • Kevin White

        I had been to his website, just not in a while. Some interesting new stuff up there. I’ll check out the Museum. Thanks!

  • Daemonic

    Nooooooooooo! Gutted.

  • mcnbns

    My favourite memory of The Wave was waiting in the lobby talking to a guy about bitcoin as he snorted ketamine off of his desk. That’s VR in a nutshell.

  • mr lava lava

    I remember going to try that once , but it was region locked outside the US , (and maybe one or two other countries) ..maybe if they’d tried launching it internationally it would have been more successful

    • DanDei

      It was accessible from Germany but the showtimes were of course all set for US audiences so I missed a lot because it was 5 am local time. Shame they never expanded to europe

  • Check my comment below. They got a huge investment, and investors made them follow the market. And there is a bigger market for 2D streaming than for a VR concert. But VR concerts are much much better than streaming… even if just viewed on a 2D screen. I’ve seen that with the JMJ concert for which I was an organizer

  • Eric

    So instead of doing something unique, which they were doing, they’re going to try and compete (or get bought by) with YouTube, twitch, etc etc. What a joke!

    During the pandemic, brother (in a different city) and I went to a Wave, struck up a conversation that lasted hours with a bloke in England and a girl in South Dakota. We all were having a blast.

    What a shame. Pathetic.

  • Rosko

    Sad, i really liked many of the experiences & now they will be lost.

  • Ben Champ

    I enjoyed WaveVR it was a great app to jump into now and then. However for the majority of good concerts were run at odd times for people in certain locations. It was always a cool place to pop into and meet random people enjoying music.

    As I have jumped back to VR recently with the emergence of standalone headsets its a shame to see apps I have enjoyed be retired