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High Fidelity lays off half of studio in pivot away from VR

High Fidelity lays off half of studio in pivot away from VR

December 12, 2019 | By Alissa McAloon

High Fidelity, the once VR-focused studio from Second Life creator Philip Rosedale is laying off a significant portion of the team as it moves away from development of its open-source, blockchain-based VR platform of the same name.

A blog post from the company says that the layoffs affect half of the developers employed at the studio, including “developers, designers, program managers, marketers, and support professionals,” though specific numbers aren’t mentioned. The studio also notes that it is “giving those affected time and support to find new positions in the New Year.”

The company’s CTO Brad Hefta-Gaub is also departing the company next month, though the post says this was a personal decision rather than a layoff.

If you or someone you know has been affected by these layoffs, you can email Gamasutra to share your story confidentially.

High Fidelity had previously angled itself as a company building an open-source virtual world for VR, but grievances with the current generation of VR and the slow road to mass VR headset adoption caused the company to reconsider its plans. Both High Fidelity and the studio’s Virtual You: 3D Avatar Creator app are set to be removed from digital stores, and High Fidelity account creation has been frozen, though the app will remain functional in ways detailed in an FAQ for those already registered.

High Fidelity’s Github repository is also set to go private on January 15, 2020, a move the company says aims to “formally turn over control of the codebase to the community” as its recent contributions to the codebase have already dwindled in the past months and would only continue to do so.

For a period of time, the studio also dabbled in creating a VR-powered virtual workspace aimed at remote workers, but those plans have also been cut.

The studio notes it has given up on the current generation of VR headsets, not on the concept of virtual worlds and is working on a new internal project that it plans to detail at a later date.

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