Pico cancels own 'Beat Saber Killer', developers sacked - report
New information obtained by MIXED paints a chaotic picture at VR headset manufacturer Pico. The rumors of recent weeks seem to be coming true.
Over the past few weeks, there have been reports that Bytedance is planning to close down or at least significantly downsize Pico, the VR headset manufacturer it acquired in 2019.
A new report from a beta tester with direct contact to Pico's developers confirms the previous information and paints a picture of internal communication chaos.
Blitz Rhythm was a promising in-house production
Pico had apparently been working on a “Beat Saber” style VR game called Blitz Rhythm for two years. For this game, among others, Pico had developed its own motion trackers because, unlike Meta's VR hit, Blitz Rhythm would allow players to use their whole body, including their legs.
Official coverage of the game was light, partly because Pico had virtually no external communication. There were a few scattered YouTube channels covering the game. There was also little mention of the motion trackers.
Around 80 to 100 players were admitted to the European closed beta, which started in mid-2023. They also received the new motion trackers. The feedback was said to be very positive, and the development was already close to a release-ready product. In China, thousands of enthusiastic players are said to already have access to the VR game.
Sudden sacking of the whole team
From October 20th to 22nd (just three weeks ago), the Blitz Rhythm developers held a Meet & Greet event at the Pico office in Barcelona. Some closed beta participants had the opportunity to meet the developers, exchange ideas and give direct feedback on the game.
This was also the weekend that the first report of Bytedance's plans to abandon Pico surfaced. “The developers were still laughing about it,” our source says.
But since Tuesday, the 7th of November 2023, it is official for everyone directly involved: the entire team has been fired and the development of Blitz Rhythm is cancelled. The developers were apparently taken by surprise.
The reason given to our source by a Pico developer is in line with previous reports: Bytedance no longer sees a profitable future in virtual reality, and Pico will now focus exclusively on the production of VR headsets.
“This is absolutely tragic for the developers who put their heart and soul into this, and I really feel sorry for them,” our source commented on the layoffs.
Is Bytedance going to sell Pico?
The fact that Bytedance sees no future in VR on the one hand, but wants to continue producing VR headsets on the other, sounds somewhat inconsistent. However, this could be an indication that Bytedance does not want to completely shut down Pico, but rather sell the core company, possibly to somewhat mitigate its losses.
This process also explains why we received no information about Pico's roadmap for 2024 at AWE 2023 in Vienna. In response to our inquiry about the original rumors of Pico's closure, Oliver Wöhler of Bytedance wrote in an email to MIXED on 21st October: “Happy to have a talk at AWE, we are planning to show some great news about our roadmap 2023 and 2024.”
Apparently, there is no roadmap at the moment.