Despite Zuckerberg and company spending billions of dollars on VR tech every fiscal quarter, the wider VR startup ecosystem is having a rough few years since its 2016 peak, when investors poured money into the sector expecting Oculus-sized returns, only to see much of their investment slowly wither away.
This makes it pretty big news whenever a major institutional investor bids on a VR startup these days — even in the seed round. Earlier this week, I sat down with the guys from the VR basketball app. Physical training, which just completed an $8 million seed round from Andreessen Horowitz. Other sponsors include Founders Inc, Todd and Rahul’s Angul Fund and Balaji Srinivasan.
The gym is what they call a pure VR game – the experience is gear dependent and the mechanics only make sense in VR. So, in theory, betting on a company is not just a bet on the ability of the team, but also on the short-term viability of the space in which they operate. It’s a safer bet in a world where Meta and Apple are big investments in the sector, but still risky given the uncertainty over the timing of the headset’s further introduction.
Even among other VR titles, the game itself is early – Gym Class isn’t even available on Meta’s Quest Store yet. To date, almost 1 million downloads of the free app have occurred on the Meta App Lab, a hub for games that promise promising results but may have a lot of development ahead of them before they’re ready for prime time. So far, Gym Class has garnered quite a bit of attention even before it hit the official Quest store, mostly due to TikTok sharing gameplay footage.
Gym Class product lead Paul Katsen told TechCrunch that the startup sees the experience as more of a social hub than a simple game that allows people to hope in the virtual space and connect the sport and culture around basketball. Gym Class is currently focused on basketball and has no immediate plans to create a wider offering of sports activities, according to the company.
The upcoming official launch of the company’s Quest Store is a major milestone for the company, but confirms just how important the Meta platform remains to all VR developers without exception. Meta made a splash late last month by announcing a price hike on the long-available Quest 2 headset, citing the need to recoup an investment in a low-margin device.
“If you rely on this distribution platform, you are not creating your own distribution platform,” Katsen says, “when we see prices go up $100, yes, it’s a bummer, but the trajectory they go up nonetheless.” “That’s outperforming console sales.”
Credit: techcrunch.com /