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Virtual Concerts Company Wave Shutters VR App to Focus on Wider Distribution

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Citing the slow development of VR, the company is now focused on bringing its livestreamed concerts to popular gaming and social platforms like TikTok, Twitch and Roblox.

The virtual concerts company Wave picked up steam amid the pandemic, raising a fresh $30 million in June from investors including Scooter Braun to help artists like The Weeknd and John Legend perform as avatars of themselves inside imaginative virtual worlds. But in order to distribute is performances more broadly, the company is now shutting down its virtual reality (VR) offering, co-founder/CEO Adam Arrigo explained in a tweet on Friday (Jan. 15), citing the slow adoption of VR into the marketplace.

"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," he wrote. "Artists need audiences to thrive, and we realized VR just wasn't there yet, and there was a bigger opportunity for artists outside headsets."

Up until now, fans had the option to livestream Wave concerts in 2-D online, or by syncing a VR headset with TheWaveVR app on the VR platforms Steam and Oculus. Fans could also use TheWaveVR app to independently host shows and socialize inside them. That app will now shut down at the end of March, although Wave will continue to put on livestreamed virtual concerts -- just not for viewing in VR.

Arrigo adds that TheWaveVR relied on 3D object creation platform Google Poly, which is itself shutting down in June.

"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," he continued. "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."

Virtual reality concerts have been hyped up for years because they allow an unlimited number of fans from around the world to interact with each other as avatars inside a 360-degree, three-dimensional environment, where nearly anything is possible from a design perspective. But the nascent industry has some high barriers of entry to overcome. The concept is difficult to explain to consumers and business partners alike, and the potential audience for VR concerts is bound by the number of headsets sold -- which start at around $300 apiece.

Given those factors, it's not altogether shocking that Wave has decided to put VR on pause, especially given the success of some of its more mainstream livestreamed concerts. Most notably, the Weeknd teamed with Wave in August for a TikTok LIVE concert that reached over 2 million live viewers and raised $350,000 for the Equal Justice Initiative.

According to a spokesperson for Wave, the Los Angeles-based company is now focused on bringing its interactive virtual entertainment experiences to other popular gaming and social platforms like Twitch, YouTube, Twitter and Roblox. The next event is a pay-per-view virtual concert with electronic artist Alison Wonderland on Feb. 5.

Even so, other executives in the virtual concerts space -- such as the VR events company Supersphere -- have recently kicked into high gear, using the pandemic as a chance to demonstrate their worth to the music industry while also hoping that the lack of physical concerts accelerates consumer interest in VR headsets.

In September, market intelligence provider The International Data Corporation projected that the market for VR headsets will see a double-digit growth of 46.2% in 2021, and statistics database Statista predicts that augmented reality (AR) and VR headsets will sell more than 26 million units per year by 2023. "The biggest overall zeitgeist challenge is acceptance of VR in the marketplace," Supersphere founder Lucas Wilson told Billboard in October. "But I believe that we’re past that."

Arrigo isn't giving up on VR entirely. "We promise to do everything we can to one day bring back this experience in an even more evolved form," he concluded on Twitter. Read his full message below.