Tencent‘s extended reality (XR) business has suspended operation, affecting a team of more than 300 people, and it is not yet known whether there will be any major personnel adjustments soon, Chinastarmarket reported on January 13.
Tencent set up its XR department in June 2022 with a flurry of promotion, with Steven Ma, the firm’s senior vice president and leader of its game business, named as the chief person in charge. Shen Li, the head of NExT Studios, was named as the “specific” person in charge. According to sources familiar with the matter, Shen left the job in November 2022.
Previously, Tencent said that XR is a brand-new business that the company is vigorously building to cope with the “complete reality of the internet.” As firm founder Pony Ma explained, “a series of basic technologies from real-time communication to audio and video has been prepared, and the computing power has been rapidly improved, which has promoted richer changes in the modes of information contact and human-computer interaction. This is a process from quantitative change to qualitative change, which means the integration of online and offline channels, and the integration of physical and electronic ways.”
Last April, Steven Ma delivered a speech about the metaverse at the Alumni Association of Fudan University School of Management. He mentioned that he is still pessimistic about the changes in the metaverse in the next two to three years. Although many technologies have experienced breakthroughs, they are all dedicated explorations, and there is still a considerable technical and commercial distance from the metaverse. However, he added that he has strong confidence in metaverse’s long-term development prospects.
In May, Ma accepted an exclusive interview with VentureBeat. Besides games, he expressed many opinions on blockchain, NFTs and other metaverse-related businesses, among which he reiterated his optimism about VR.
Tencent is not only a shareholder in Roblox, but also holds 40% of Epic Games. In addition, QQ Music launched a function that provided VR music rooms for popular musicians such as Jay Chou. In terms of hardware, Tencent demonstrated its first VR headset device – TenVR – developed by its InLab in 2018, but the business unit has not shown a new product since then.
In early January last year, it was reported that Tencent planned to acquire Black Shark, a gaming smartphone company. After the transaction was completed, Black Shark’s business focus shifted from smartphones to VR equipment. However, in early May, Black Shark CEO Harrison Luo directly denied the existence of this transaction, saying that he was only looking for external investment opportunities. In October, Black Shark laid off 50% of its employees. Among them, VR projects have been the hardest hit area, and a large number of related employees recruited at the beginning of the year have been dropped.