Baidu’s head of VR stepped down amid metaverse cooldown

May 19, 2023 6:22 pm

Baidu's Vice President Ma Jie, who previously led the company's metaverse and VR business, including the VR platform XiRang, has recently resigned for undisclosed reasons.

PingWest reached out to Baidu, but as of the post's publication, had not received a response.

Baidu, renowned for its search engine and AI ventures, has ventured into several highly anticipated technology sectors in recent years, such as the metaverse, NFTs, and the more recent AIGC.

The metaverse platform XiRang was launched at the end of 2021 and was touted by Baidu as "the first Chinese-made metaverse product." However, its initial launch left many disappointed, as the platform appeared crude and offered limited functions and content.

XiRang aimed to be an all-in-one platform for entertainment, social interaction, and brand promotion, similar to the global metaverse gaming platform Roblox, which has forged numerous brand partnerships, including big names like Nike and Gucci.

Baidu officially announced the completion of over 120 metaverse activities and spaces with "XiRang" last year, covering more than 20 domains, including culture, tourism, art, automobiles, and consumer goods. At Baidu's annual convention "Create 2022," the company unveiled "MetaStack for XiRang," touted as the world's first independent metaverse rapid construction solution.

However, as the metaverse sector experiences a cooldown, the outlook for XiRang is becoming increasingly bleak. Baidu is now shifting its focus to another promising area—the field of AI and Large Language Models. Baidu is not alone in exiting the metaverse space, as other Chinese players have also started to withdraw. ByteDance shut down its metaverse social app "Party Island," Tencent downsized its XR platform "Magic Core," and canceled all XR-related positions.

Ma Jie was asked about the project's profitability at a Baidu conference in 2022, and according to a Forbes report, he’s response was that reasonable profits are good enough.

Furthermore, apart from social platforms like XiRang, other segments of the metaverse have also witnessed a decline. In 2017, the median transaction price per square meter of metaverse land was $20. By 2021, this figure had soared to $6,000. However, currently, the median transaction price on Decentraland, the world's largest metaverse real estate sales platform, has plummeted from $45 in 2022 to $5, representing a nearly 90% decline.