Chinese video giant ByteDance will conduct a new round of layoffs from its virtual reality arm Pico as demand for headsets was not “as fast as expected,” said chief executive Henry Zhou, acknowledging at an internal meeting that projections for VR had been overly optimistic.

Why it matters: This large-scale downsizing is the latest restructuring effort by ByteDance in response to dim prospects in the VR industry. Despite significant investments in technology and marketing over the past two years, which failed to yield satisfactory sales results, the company has stated its intention to keep its hardware team intact.

Details: The biggest overhaul since Pico was acquired by the TikTok owner two years ago was announced in a ten-minute meeting on Tuesday, with staff from sales, videos, and platform operations hit the most.

  • Although the exact percentage of layoffs was not disclosed by the company, a source close to Pico told local media outlet VR Tuoluo saying around half of its VR staff would be affected.
  • In February, Pico slashed nearly a third of its positions, equivalent to hundreds of jobs, mere months after ByteDance launched the flagship Pico 4 VR headset, benchmarked against Meta’s Quest 2. Recent layoffs will shrink the workforce to only a few hundred employees, down from a peak headcount of over 2,000.
  • Affected employees will be compensated based on their years of service plus one month’s salary, according to Tencent News.

Context: ByteDance acquired Pico for approximately RMB 5 billion in 2021, and launched an extensive marketing campaign for the Pico 4 standalone VR headset when it was launched a year later. The company enlisted musician Leah Dou and ping-pong star Sun Yingsha as spokespeople, covering major shopping malls and bus stops with advertisements. 

  • The TikTok owner has high hopes for its VR business, as Pico founder and president Henry Zhou said at last year’s launch event, expecting the headset to sell more than 1 million units eventually. However, early this year, the company lowered its sales target to “slightly over 500,000 units” due to disappointing initial results.
  • The Pico 4 boasts a total of 561 apps, according to figures compiled by VR Tuoluo, surpassing Quest’s 532. The report quoted a source as saying ByteDance had spent at least several billion yuan on building a content ecosystem within Pico.

Cheyenne Dong is a tech reporter now based in Shanghai. She covers e-commerce and retail, AI, and blockchain. Connect with her via e-mail: cheyenne.dong[a]