October 3, 2022

It was a perfect first date. It started with a trip to an amusement park located in an alpine valley, where colorful roller coasters roam through the trees. The pair then played a round of mini golf before topping the night with a shared bucket of popcorn at a movie theater. And it all happened in metaverses. This is how Samantha M. , a 26-year-old from Washington, D.C., with her boyfriend Kayden, who lives in Utah.

Couple calling on a dating app called We have never met, helping singles find dates in the virtual reality world. Since their first meeting in March, the pair have bonded at least once a week on VRChat, the famous metaverse, and sometimes spend nearly entire days together. The two haven’t met in person yet, but they also interact outside of the metaverse as well, mostly through text messages, phone calls, and video chats on Discord.

“It’s as close as you can get to being with someone without being physically with them,” Samantha says. “It gives you a chance to meet others and learn more about them personally and from within.”

Virtual reality dating is on the rise, as companies like Nevermet are developing new ways to connect people in the Metaverse. But the concept hasn’t been smooth sailing for industry-leading app Match Group and Tinder. After 10 months of effort, Match pulled the plug on Tinder’s attempt to build the metaverse dating space. It comes at a turbulent time for Match, as the company has had to cancel other recent initiatives — including creating an in-app currency — as revenue growth has slowed once the post-lockdown romance has dissipated.

CEO Bernard Kim announced slowing development of Metaverse in Match on a lackluster second-quarter earnings call. Less than a year ago, Tinder revealed plans to develop a metafiric dating space, a move that included the acquisition of Hyperconnect, an artificial intelligence and augmented reality company that was already developing a virtual romance destination called “Solo City.”

“Given the uncertainty about the ultimate frontiers of metaverses and what will or may not work, as well as the more challenging operating environment, I have instructed the Hyperconnect team to iterate but not invest heavily in the metaverse at this time,” Kim said. “We will continue to carefully evaluate this space, and will consider moving forward at the appropriate time, when we have more clarity.”

The change of direction was paired with an announcement that Tinder CEO Renta Nyborg was stepping down. Nyborg, who became the unit’s first female CEO in September, publicly led Match Group affiliate Match Group’s campaign into the metaverse, dubbed “Tinderverse” in Reuters Next conference in December.

Kim also announced that Tinder was dropping plans for a virtual currency called Tinder Coins after an unenthusiastic response in test markets. Money can be purchased in-app or earned through activity on the app. Users can then exchange the coins – which are not designed as cryptocurrency – for ‘super likes’ and other features that can be purchased in the existing business model.

Tinder isn’t the only major dating app expressing an interest in the metaverse. Bumble, another major player, has announced its intention to call the November earnings to prepare for “whatever appears” in the world.

However, while the heavyweights in dating are doing the wall flower, more and more savvy newbies have taken to the dance floor. Nefermate and competitors flirt And the Planet Theta Shows the different ways that the metaverse dating apps may work. It operates mostly on the popular freemium model with traditional heavyweights, where the basic service is free but other features are available at a cost.

Nevermet connects virtual reality enthusiasts, who create profiles including in-depth bios and avatars. However, the company chose not to build its own metaverse destinations. In fact, the app is not a virtual reality, but a more traditional smartphone app. Once two people match, they are supposed to leave the app ecosystem to connect in a virtual world of their choosing.

“Our goal is to help connect people to help them form meaningful relationships. And we want to let them define the worlds they want to get into together to get those experiences,” says Cam Mullen, Nevermet CEO.

Like Samantha and Cayden, many Nevermet users connect via VRChat, where their custom avatars travel through any of the platform’s 25,000 community-created virtual worlds. Samantha’s avatar is a purple-eyed, silver-haired version. Samantha met two of her ex-boyfriends on VRChat without the help of NeverMate and says that many of her friends encountered important people for the first time while socializing on the metaverse platform.

Flirtual, the company with the strongest claim as the first virtual reality dating platform, is following a similar scheme to Nevermet. The company sends most of its users to VRChat after they connect to the Flirtual app.

Other metaverse dating apps, such as Planet Theta, focus on creating their own virtual worlds in an effort to nurture user experiences. The Planet Theta platform, which is currently being tested and is scheduled to launch in November, connects potential matches via virtual speed dating. Singles are paired up for short, one-minute online chats. If all goes well, they can call back a three-minute coffee appointment, sitting in a cafe designed by Planet Theta. After the virtual coffee, users will see pictures of their dates and be presented with the option to vote like or decline. If both parties are so complacent, they can connect to future dates in the Planet Theta metaverse, literally sipping virtual drinks at the couples-only bar or feeding squirrels in the enchanted forest.

This type of dating allows users to instantly test their chemistry through live chat, something that Chris Crowe, CEO of Planet Theta, says brand-name dating apps have failed to deliver. “You can’t tell if you have any chemistry with someone from a picture,” Crowe says.

As Planet Theta builds the custom VR experience, Crew hopes that users will take time to connect outside the metaverse as well. “It ends up being a relationship with someone that you hope you will eventually love and live with, not something you’re trying to talk endlessly about in just virtual reality.”

Nevermet has a similar approach, although some of its users choose to stay in virtual reality. “It varies from person to person, but the majority of users, once a meaningful relationship is formed and in love, most will want to eventually meet in the physical world,” Mullen says.

Mullen and Samantha understand that some people will struggle to take hesitant dating seriously. But this group may soon become a minority. Mullen says NeverMate has “established more than 200,000 new metaverse relationships.”

“At the end of the day, you’re sitting in your room alone, and you probably look kind of silly. But inside the headset, you’re with the person you love, and that’s really cool,” said Samantha.

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