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VR is on the rise: Money is flowing into VR studios again

VR is on the rise: Money is flowing into VR studios again
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July 13, 2022:

Investment in XR Games ($7 million) added (see list below).

The British studio is known for the licensed games "The Angry Birds Movie 2 VR: Under Pressure" and "Zombieland: Headshot Fever".

Jan. 27, 2022:

Australia-based Alta Studio, which developed the co-op game A Township Tale, receives $12.4 million in seed funding. The main investors are Makers Fund and Andreessen Horowitz.

More background is available at Road to VR.

The success of the Quest headsets and a number of other factors have breathed new life into the VR industry. This is reflected in the investments for about a year.

With Meta Quest 2, Meta could soon achieve its goal of a stable VR ecosystem. But not only Meta continues to invest in virtual reality. Sony is also continuing its VR experiment started with Playstation VR and will release PSVR 2 for Playstation 5 maybe this year.

While HTC has almost completely withdrawn from the consumer market, Valve could soon follow up with a standalone PC VR headset. Numerous patents and comments from Valve suggest that.

And then there’s Apple: According to various rumors, Apple plans to launch its first VR-AR headset in 2023, which could take the industry to a new level. Pico is also entering the consumer market with Pico Neo Link.

The VR industry is once again in an upbeat mood

After five difficult years characterized by empty hype, experimentation, market fragmentation, and sluggish demand, the forecasts for virtual reality currently look better than ever.

The VR industry has learned from its mistakes and laid the groundwork for a new, more productive phase. Meta’s continued willingness to invest, the success of the Quest, the prospect of plenty of new, better hardware, and pandemic-related upheaval have created a sense of optimism in the industry that is carrying over to investors.

This is evidenced by the following list of investment rounds and acquisitions of VR studios since mid-2020, not including hardware manufacturers and providers of VR arcade infrastructure (software and hardware) and VR training, which have also seen heavy investment.

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  • June 2020: Acquisition of Ready at Dawn (Lone Echo, Echo Arena) by Meta.
  • July 2020: Series A funding of FitXR valued at $7.5 million
  • July 2020: Series B funding of Polyarc (Moss) valued at $9 million
  • September 2020: Acquisition of Vertigo Games (Arizona Sunshine, After The Fall) by Embracer Group for $50 million
  • October 2020: Series D funding of Survios (Creed: Rise to Glory, Westworld Awakening) valued at $16.8 million
  • October 2020: Series A financing of Thirdverse (Swords of Gargantua) valued at $8.5 million
  • October 2020: Coatsink (Shadow Point, Jurassic World Aftermath) acquired by Thunderful Group for $25 million
  • December 2020: Series C financing of Rec Room valued at $20 million
  • January 2021: $6 million investment in Kuato Studios
  • March 2021: Series D financing of Rec Room valued at $100 million
  • April 2021: Acquisition of Downpour Interactive (Onward) by Meta
  • June 2021: Acquisition of BigBox VR (Population: One) by Meta
  • June 2021: Series D funding of VRChat valued at $80 million
  • June 2021: Series A funding of Tripp worth $11 million
  • June 2021: $10 million investment in VR Education (Apollo 11 VR, Titanic VR).
  • July 2021: Series B funding in Fast Travel Games (Apex Construct, Wraith: The Oblivion – Afterlife) valued at $4 million
  • July 2021: Series C funding in Resolution Games (Blaston, Demeo) worth US$25 million
  • August 2021: Series B funding of Thirdverse (Swords of Gargantua) worth $11.5 million
  • August 2021: $1.5 million investment in XR Games (Zombieland: Headshot Fever)
  • August 2021: $7 million investment in ForeVR (ForeVR Bowl)
  • August 2021: $5.2 million investment in StatusPRO
  • September 2021: Series A funding of Ramen VR valued at $10 million
  • October 2021: Acquisition of Within (Supernatural) by Meta
  • November 2021: Series A funding of Hikky valued at $57 million
  • December 2021: Investment in Rec Room valued at $145 million
  • January 2022: $12.4 million investment in Studio Alta (A Township Tale)
  • March 2022: Series B funding for Ramen VR worth $35 million
  • March 2022: Investment in nDreams worth $35 million
  • July 2022: Investment in XR Games worth $7 million

These factors also play a role

Upon closer examination, the thesis of increased investment in VR studios due to internal market success is somewhat qualified by three circumstances.

First, Meta had been planning studio acquisitions since at least mid-2019, so they would have happened one way or another.

Second, Meta’s aggressive acquisitions (the company has acquired five VR studios since the end of 2019) have a huge signaling effect for venture capitalists, favoring investments in VR studios and distorting the actual VR market situation: if you invest in a successful VR studio in time, you have a chance to profit from a later Facebook acquisition. The question is which successful VR studio Facebook could buy.

Third, the $80 million and $100 million investments in VRChat and Rec Room, respectively, take a special place: Both apps have metaverse ambitions and can be used without VR headsets. The fact that so much money has flowed into VRChat and Rec Room is therefore not only due to the positive prospects of the VR market, but also depends on external factors such as the recent Metaverse hype.