Seattle startup VREAL is stepping into the market dominated by Twitch (owned by Amazon) Google’s YouTube in the summer when the company launches its live streaming platform for virtual reality games. The platform is developed exclusively for Facebook’s Oculus Rift, Google Cardboard and HTC Vive. Through the service, users can create avatars, connect with friends and stream video games.
Virtual reality tends to be an isolating form of technology. Critics have said as much but VREAL wants to make the experience more social. VREAL’s product allows users to watch others play in virtual reality. If this idea takes off, it will become an integral part of the virtual reality market, a market that is set to be a more than $20 billion market by the year 2020.
Founder and CEO of VREAL Todd Hooper said that people believed Oculus Rift would be a “socially isolating thing” when it was introduced on Kickstart. He adds, “I actually think that you can have social experiences in VR that are far more social than regular gameplay. If you can go to a virtual world with someone else, it is very social.”
Upfront Ventures, Vulcan Capital, Presence Capital, IT Farm, Dawn Patrol Ventures and angel investors all helped in raising money for VREAL: a total of $3.3 million.
CEO of market analyst Newzoo, Peter Warman, said that the convergence of video and games on a global scale is changing games into all-around entertainment franchises. He adds that virtual reality is transforming the way consumers communicate with one another as well as how they interact with content. He also predicts that much of the share of revenues from virtual reality will be generated by hardware sales, spectator content and live viewing formats.
When Hooper was working as vice president of online at Unity Technologies, he witnessed how gameplay has evolved into entertainment through platforms such as Twitch and YouTube. This development coincided with Facebook’s $2 billion investment on virtual reality as well as the entry of Valve, HTC and Sony into the market. According to Hooper, a lot more people are “watching games on Twitch and YouTube than playing games today.” It is a trend he expects will apply to VR in the future.
Last year, VREAL concentrated on investing in technology that allowed developers using Unity or Unreal Engine technology to render virtual reality games across all platforms seamlessly.
The VREAL platform can re-render every game in real time so that when one person puts on a virtual reality headset, they appear in the game next to a user. From there, they can have a social experience within the game. You can think of it like a chat window seen on Twitch or YouTube.
Essentially, when using VREAL’s platform, viewers will be right next to the person streaming the game. This, Hooper says, allows for a more personal, social interaction.
Bryan Chu, vice president of marekting at VREAL, said “We’re transforming the streaming experience where it’s like watching TV so that it’s more like a live theater expereince where someone can pass the microphone to you and give you the state for a moment.”
The first games that will feature VREAL integration will announced at the E3 video game trade show in Los Angeles in June.