February 6, 2023

This is the perfect first date. The first is a visit to an amusement park set in an alpine valley, where colorful roller coasters run through the woods. The couple then played a round of mini golf and ended the night with a bucket of popcorn at the movie theater. And it all happens in the metaverse. That’s how Samantha M., 26, from Washington, D.C., met her boyfriend, Cayden, who lives in Utah.

The pair hooked up on a dating app called never seen, which helps singles find dates in virtual reality. Since their first date in March, the couple have been in touch on VRChat, a popular metaverse world, at least once a week, sometimes spending nearly all day together. The two have yet to meet in person, but they have also interacted outside the Metaverse, mostly through text messages, phone calls, and video chats on Discord.

“It’s the closest you can get to being with someone, not being close to them,” says Samantha. “It gives you the opportunity to meet other people and learn more about them both personally and internally.”

Virtual reality dating is on the rise, and companies like Nevermet are developing new ways to connect people in the Metaverse. But the concept hasn’t been smooth sailing for Match Group and its industry-leading app Tinder. After 10 months, Match blocked Tinder’s attempt to build a virtual world dating space. It’s been a tumultuous time for Match, as revenue growth slowed once the post-lockdown romance dissipated, and the company had to abandon other recent moves — including the creation of an in-app currency.

CEO Bernard Kim announced a slowdown in Match’s metaverse development during the second-quarter earnings call. Less than a year ago, Tinder revealed plans to develop a metaverse dating space, including the acquisition of Hyperconnect, an artificial intelligence and augmented reality company that was already developing a virtual romance destination called “Single Town.”

“I have directed the Hyperconnect team to iterate, but not to invest heavily in Metaverse at this time, given the final contours of Metaverse and the uncertainty of what will or will not work, as well as the more challenging operating environment ,” Kim said. “We will continue to carefully evaluate this space and we will consider moving forward in due course, when we have more clarity.”

The change in direction comes with the announcement that Tinder’s CEO Renta Nyborg is stepping down. Nyborg, who became the division’s first female CEO in September, has publicly led the development of the Match Group subsidiary in the metaverse, dubbing it the “Tinderverse.” Reuters Next December meeting.

Kim also announced that Tinder had dropped plans for a virtual currency called Tinder Coins after a lackluster test market response. In-app funds can be purchased or earned through on-app activity. Users can then exchange coins not designed as cryptocurrencies for “super likes” and other features that can be purchased in the current business model.

Tinder isn’t the only major dating app expressing interest in the metaverse. Another major player, Bumble, said on an earnings call in November that it intends to prepare for “anything that comes up” in the space.

However, when dating heavyweights do the wallflower thing, more nimble upstarts have hit the dance floor.an opponent you’ve never met flirtatious and Planet Theta Different ways that the Metaverse dating app might work is being shown. Most of them follow the freemium model popular with traditional heavyweights, where basic services are free, but other features require payment.

Nevermet connects virtual reality enthusiasts who build profiles including in-depth bios and avatars. The company chose not to build its own metaverse destination, though. Actually, the app is not virtual reality, but a more traditional smartphone app. Once two people match, they’re meant to leave the app’s ecosystem and connect in a virtual world of their choice.

“Our goal is to help people connect and help them build meaningful relationships. We want them to decide what kind of world they want to be in together to have these experiences,” said Nevermet CEO Cam Mullen.

Like Samantha and Cayden, many Nevermet users connect on VRChat, with their custom avatars moving around the platform’s 25,000 community-created virtual worlds. Samantha’s avatar is a purple-eyed, silver-haired version of herself. Samantha met two ex-boyfriends on VRChat without Nevermet’s help, and said several of her friends first met significant other while socializing on the Metaverse platform.

As the strongest company for the first virtual reality dating platform, Flirtual follows a similar outline to Nevermet. The company connects most of its users to the Flirtual app and sends them to VRChat.

Other metaverse dating apps, like Planet Theta, focus on creating their own virtual worlds in an effort to craft the user experience. The Planet Theta platform is currently in beta testing and is scheduled to launch in November, connecting potential matches via virtual speed dating. Singles pairings for short one-minute online chats. If things go well, they can reconnect for a three-minute coffee date, where they sit in a cafe designed by Planet Theta. After drinking the virtual coffee, users will see a photo of their date and can choose to vote up or down. If both parties are submissive, they can connect to a future date in the metaverse world of Planet Theta, virtually sip a virtual drink at a couples bar or feed a squirrel in an enchanted forest.

Such dating allows users to test chemistry instantly through live conversations, which Planet Theta CEO Chris Crew says branded dating apps fail to deliver. “You can’t tell from a photo if you have any chemistry with someone,” Crewe said.

While Planet Theta is building its custom VR experience, Crew wants users to spend time connecting outside of the virtual world as well. “It ends up with you having a relationship with someone who wants you to love and eventually live with you, instead of trying to talk endlessly just in VR.”

Nevermet has a similar approach, although some of its users choose to stay in VR. “It varies from person to person, but once most users have a meaningful relationship and fall in love, most of them will eventually want to meet in the real world,” Mullen said.

Mullen and Samantha understand that some people have a hard time taking metaverse dating seriously. But this group may soon become a minority. Nevermet “created over 200,000 new metaverse relationships,” Mullen said.

“At the end of the day, you’re sitting in a room alone and you might look a little silly. But in headphones, you’re with someone you love, which is really cool,” Samantha said.

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