Addressing the recent announcement that Echo VR shuts down in August, Meta CTO Andrew Bosworth provided his perspective on the decision and said “John [Carmack] would not have shut down Echo VR.”
During his latest Instagram AMA, someone asked Bosworth if there was any way they could keep Echo VR up. In short, the answer was a clear “No.”
Despite a very loyal fanbase, Bosworth says the decision to shut down Echo VR was made as the game’s player base had “dwindled” to a number in the low tens of thousands. “Unfortunately keeping things alive takes work,” said Bosworth. “This is not like a return on investment money standpoint, it’s just [that] those resources could be put to other uses that I think will be useful to the now tens of millions of people who are in VR.”
He also says that the team looked at other options to keep the game alive, such as selling it off or open-sourcing the game, but “none of them really made sense,” for reasons you can read below in the full transcript.
A second follow up question asked Bosworth “wwjcd rn? [What would John Carmack do right now],” referencing Bosworth’s recent blog post ‘Theory of Mind’, which discusses the thought-process that underpinned video games legend and former Consulting CTO John Carmack’s time at Meta. He admitted that Carmack would not have shut the game down and that he had already messaged Bosworth about the topic.
For another perspective, be sure to check out our recent Guest Editorial from long-time player Sonya Haskins discussing the importance of Echo VR and how the game’s shutdown will affect its passionate player community.
We’ve embedded the video response above and you can read a full transcript of Bosworth’s responses below.
Question: Is there anyway [sic] you guys could keep Echo VR up?
Bosworth: This is the question. I must have gotten like a thousand of these between my queue here on Instagram, on Twitter. The community wants acknowledgement. I do acknowledge you. I see you. I hear you. I read your comments. I read the petition. We went into this thing eyes open. We knew that there was a small but very dedicated, passionate community around this game around the sport that you all love.
And I love that for you and I’m super sad. It’s heart rending to be in the position that I am where I’m like… It’s not the right place for us to invest resources. So I’ll walk you through the decision a little bit more. You’re not gonna like me any better. You have every right to be mad at me, upset with me. I take that. I take it seriously. I’m sad about it.
So I’ll walk you through it a little bit more and at least you’ll have the answers. But I don’t think it’s gonna be satisfying to those who want us to keep it around.
So what happened here? Well, we have a game. We loved it, and it was a huge part of the evolution of virtual reality multiplayer, a community-based game, a game that had esports potential. And we kept it going for a long time. The Ready at Dawn team was real proud of it, understandably, and then ultimately it just dwindled.
The user base is small. It’s loyal as all get-out, but it’s small. It’s measured in the low 10 thousands. And unfortunately keeping things alive takes work. This is not like a return on investment money standpoint, it’s just those resources could be put to other uses that I think will be useful to the now tens of millions of people who are in VR.
And at some point you have to make those choices and we have some regulatory constraints that we are required to do that make it even more expensive to keep up. This is the part of jobs like mine that sucks. I have to make these calls. I’m a sad about Portal, which I love. Literally just now my wife is texting me, the kids are using Portal, they love it. I’m sad that we’re not gonna have new versions of those and we’re supporting the ones that we have in market.
I’m sad about Echo VR. We’re gonna support it until August, but then it’s gonna be out of market. I’m sad because these things meant something to people. They had real value and purpose and they had intention and they brought people together, and that’s what we’re trying to do as a macro thing.
But I do need to think about return on investment. And I’m not talking about money back to Meta. I’m not talking about trying to make money. I’m talking about the return on the human capital, the people, that could be doing something that’s gonna affect millions of people, but instead they’re trying to keep something alive that affects 10 thousands of people.
I love how deeply it affected those people, but I just gotta make those calls. It’s part of my job and so I stand on it. I believe in it. I think it’s the right change. But I don’t expect you to like it. And I’m sad about it as well.
I will add one more thing on this – I know people are really focused on it understandably – which is that we looked at can we open source it? And the answer is basically no. It’s very deeply entangled with a bunch of our systems and there’s no… It’d be even less cost effective to do that. Can we spin it out or sell it? No, because we want the Ready at Dawn team to be continued to be focused on these other projects that we’re excited about, that I think are gonna have a bigger impact on a bigger number of people on driving more adoption.
More adoption means more developers. More developers means content for all of you to use. This is one of those things where I’m trying to take a long view, but we did look at other options and none of them really made sense for this.
It’s a bummer. I’m bummed about it. I know you’re bummed about it, and I will continue to gladly accept all this outpouring of grief that you guys are expressing to me right now.
Question: wwjcd rn [What would John Carmack do right now]
Bosworth: Well, I’m gonna give y’all your due. John [Carmack] would not have shut down Echo VR.
Now this is a little bit of a tricky one, because I’m trapped between two John Carmack principles. John is about maximizing user value. He hates to see people chasing speculative value. And in my opinion, that’s what I’m trying to do. At the same time, John hates content that doesn’t continue to exist … And by the way, he has messaged me on this topic. I have talked to him. I don’t have to ask.
He’s proud of the fact that there’s people who are still running Quake servers. And the fact that this software was never architected to live on like that, really offends him. He really wants to keep all… Because this is content, this is like if books stopped existing, at some point. It’s weird to him that this content, this art form doesn’t continue to exist forever.
So we’re trapped between two principles on this one, for sure.
You can read more about plans to shut down Echo VR in August here.