Survios Steps Outside of Virtual Reality to Build Games That Cross Worlds

Sam Blake

Sam primarily covers entertainment and media for dot.LA. Previously he was Marjorie Deane Fellow at The Economist, where he wrote for the business and finance sections of the print edition. He has also worked at the XPRIZE Foundation, U.S. Government Accountability Office, KCRW, and MLB Advanced Media (now Disney Streaming Services). He holds an MBA from UCLA Anderson, an MPP from UCLA Luskin and a BA in History from University of Michigan. Email him at samblake@dot.LA and find him on Twitter @hisamblake

Survios Steps Outside of Virtual Reality to Build Games That Cross Worlds

Takeaways:

  • VR game-maker Survios is expanding beyond virtual reality games as it embraces the idea of a "cross-play" world, where users can play against one another regardless of platform.
  • The company sees this as part of a broader emerging trend that it calls "cross-reality."
  • Survios' move is part of a bigger shift in the VR industry, which is recalibrating expectations and extending the timeline for immersive technology's growth.

Culver City-based virtual reality and gaming startup Survios is broadening beyond VR.

The company — creator of such games as "Creed: Rise to Glory," "The Walking Dead Onslaught" and "Westworld: Awakening" – recently announced its first non-VR game: "Big Rumble Boxing: Creed Champions." It hopes to leverage its relationship with MGM Studios, a lead investor of its 2016 Series C fundraise and owner of the "Creed" series IP.

Following its recent $16.7 million Series D funding round, Survios is one of a number of companies taking a fresh look at how users will use virtual reality in the future, and its role in the growth of gaming and the "metaverse."


Survios has also made several recent executive hires from non-VR backgrounds. New chief product officer TQ Jefferson was formerly VP of Disney's Games & Interactive Experiences group while Michael Medrano, Survios' new VP of marketing, was previously marketing director at PUBG and brand manager at Blizzard.

"We've been brought on board to help shepherd Survios through this next evolution from scrappy startup to something more formalized," Jefferson told dot.LA. The company has now raised $70.9 million. Its most recent investors included several companies from South Korea, including Irongrey, Woori Technology Investment Co. and Samsung NEXT. Earlier funders included Bay Area-based funds DHVC, Felicis Ventures, World Innovation Lab and Lux Capital.

Survios is betting on the growth of "cross-play," wherein gamers using different gaming systems can play together. The company has a broader vision, though, which it calls "cross-reality" — a seamless connectivity between not just different gaming platforms like Playstation and XBox but also between traditional '"flatscreen" media and immersive tech like AR and VR.

"Six years ago, cross-play was verboten," Seth Gerson, chief executive of Survios, told dot.LA. Fortnite, Epic Games' flagship game and virtual world, he said "broke that dam."

Epic CEO Tim Sweeney's broadside against Apple's app store policies is part of his ongoing crusade to make the gaming world more open and connected. Doing so, Sweeney believes, will more fairly compensate game developers and help the overall industry ecosystem grow bigger and stronger–and bring about a flourishing metaverse. In line with Sweeney's vision, Gerson noted that "people are playing more and paying more."

Media analyst Matthew Ball has described the metaverse as a "quasi-successor internet where everyone and every company can exist, work, socialize, trade and create."

"The 'real world' will become fundamentally integrated into the digital one, and countless new digital services and products will be created," said Ball.

Survios expects people to eventually experience the metaverse primarily through VR. In the meantime, though, in line with its cross-reality vision, it is pursuing a strategy that includes but is not limited to VR, which it hopes will position the company to play an ongoing role as the metaverse develops.

A screenshot from Survios' first non-virtual reality game: "Big Rumble Boxing: Creed Champions."

Virtual Reality: Fad or Future?

The company says it remains bullish on its VR roots. With technological enhancements in VR hardware and an ongoing decline in price – the Oculus Quest 2, due out on October 13, carries a price tag of $299 – about 8 million head-mounted displays are now in the market, Gerson said.

Recounting his former days at Sega, when the Japanese corporation was pushing its Sega Saturn gaming console, Gerson said that "if we had had 8 million units, everybody would've been doing cartwheels down the hall."

Adding in the coronavirus pandemic's boost for VR demand, Jefferson suggested "this is perhaps an inflection point where it breaks open to a larger audience."

Many observers will roll their eyes at that, having heard such proclamations before that failed to deliver.

"Certainly, the promise of VR was expected to arrive earlier than it has," media analyst Peter Csathy told dot.LA.

Ball underscored VR's continual overexuberance by noting that ABI Research, a market research firm, forecasted in 2017 that annual VR revenue in 2021 would be $65B. In 2020, however, the company significantly lowered its outlook, forecasting $25 billion in VR revenue in 2024.

"Imagine how many VR-related start-up decks had that totally baseless, inane 2017 estimate," Ball wrote.

Others are less kind. Media analyst Dan Rayburn flatly calls VR "a fad."

Stepping Back to Build a Broader Universe

Looking back, Survios' Gerson said the VR investment market made two key mistakes.

One is a misunderstanding of how much it costs to make a high-quality VR game. Gerson said VR development is far more complex than, say, mobile games; it can take over 100 developers to make a premium VR experience. "If you don't give the team the funding and the time, they can't build that experience," he said.

Gerson said VR boosters were also mistaken in expecting VR's adoption curve to resemble the exponential growth of smartphones. Instead, he said, VR adoption has been and will likely continue to be more linear, "like color TV."

Tuong Nguyen, media analyst at research firm Gartner, wrote in May that immersive technology (VR and AR) "is still three to eight years from the early majority adoption. In other words, it's in the adolescent stage."

Still, "calling VR 'a fad' is like being negative on the internet," he told dot.LA.

Nguyen wrote that past VR efforts have lacked a viable strategy for reaching consumers. In contrast, businesses have more quickly adopted VR for some applications, like training. But the consumer market remains the larger prize.

In this sense, Survios' effort to meet the consumer where they're at by expanding beyond VR could be a prudent move.

Gerson still believes that VR is the future. He called it the "ultimate iteration" of the metaverse – the parallel digital universe first conceived by science fiction writer Neal Stephenson that is part and parcel of Sweeney's no-barriers vision of the gaming world.

Representatives at market research firm Parks Associates agree with that view.

"2020 has been a good year for virtual reality adoption in the United States," research analyst Kristen Hanich told dot.LA. "With VR headset adoption reaching a critical mass among gamers, and increasing releases of built-for-VR games to the market, the VR market is poised to finally break out."

That vision is firmly in mind at Survios.

The company wouldn't provide specifics on its product roadmap, but Jefferson did say Survios' plans "allow us to edge closer to enabling cross-reality immersion."

"We've built a whole suite of tools...and our goal is to build worlds and allow our customers to participate in those worlds using any platform they want," Gerson said.

For now, Survios will simultaneously focus on adapting to the slower adoption of VR while preparing for a future where it is more widespread.

---

Sam Blake primarily covers entertainment and media for dot.LA. Find him on Twitter @hisamblake and email him at samblake@dot.LA

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🏰 Disney's Epic Investment Stands Out Amidst Gaming Industry Layoffs

Christian Hetrick

Christian Hetrick is dot.LA's Entertainment Tech Reporter. He was formerly a business reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer and reported on New Jersey politics for the Observer and the Press of Atlantic City.

🔦 Spotlight

In the midst of widespread gaming industry layoffs, a glimmer of positive news emerges as Disney announces a significant move: a $1.5 billion investment in Epic Games. 🏰💰🐭

Image Source: Disney

Disney's $1.5 billion investment in Epic Games, disclosed late Wednesday, signals a strategic alignment aimed at expanding the success of "Fortnite." The deal enhances Epic's growth prospects after financial setbacks, including layoffs, and strengthens the partnership between the two companies. With Disney gaining a larger equity stake in Epic, the collaboration will broaden the integration of beloved Disney franchises like Marvel, Star Wars, Pixar, and Avatar into the game, potentially boosting its appeal and longevity. This significant investment underscores Disney's commitment to interactive entertainment and signifies a shift towards games as a primary revenue stream, aligning with the growing trend of digital engagement among younger demographics. Moreover, the potential for crossover sales of physical Disney products within "Fortnite" and the exploration of new content distribution channels are just some of the opportunities arising from this partnership.

For LA tech, the Disney-Epic Games partnership represents a validation of the region's burgeoning tech and gaming ecosystem. The substantial investment in Epic, who maintains a large Los Angeles office with 1,000+ employees (according to LinkedIn), reflects confidence in the LA’s talent pool and innovation potential. Additionally, this partnership between two industry giants fosters an environment for further collaboration, investment, and growth within LA's tech sector. As Disney and Epic Games deepen their ties and explore new avenues for content integration and distribution, it not only elevates the prominence of LA as a tech hub but also stimulates economic growth and job creation in the region. This partnership highlights LA's unique position as a hub where technology and entertainment converge. With its ability to integrate diverse industries, LA is driving innovation and expansion in digital entertainment. 🚀💸🎮

🤝 Venture Deals

LA Companies

  • ProducePay, a financing and marketplace platform for the fresh produce market, raised a $38M Series D led by Syngenta Group Ventures joined by Commonfund, Highgate Private Equity, G2 Venture Partners, Anterra Capital, Astanor Ventures, Endeavor8, Avenue Venture Opportunities, Avenue Sustainable Solutions, and Red Bear Angels. - learn more
  • Blush, an invite-only dating app that drives users to local businesses on dates, raised a $7M Seed Round from individuals like Naval Ravikant. - learn more
  • Mogul, a startup founded last year that provides an overview of an artist's royalty earnings and identifies areas where money is owed but has not yet been collected, raised a $1.9 million seed round from Wonder Ventures, United Talent Agency, AmplifyLA, and Creator Partners. - learn more
  • Avnos, a hybrid direct air capture startup, raised a $36M Series A led by NextEra Energy and joined by Safran Corporate Ventures, Shell Ventures, Envisioning Partners, and Rusheen Capital Management. - learn more
  • AI.fashion, startup whose mission is to help retailers enhance the online shopping experience by providing consumers with virtual try-ons and personalized fashion recommendations, raised a $3.6M Seed Round led by Neo. - learn more
  • Suma Wealth, startup that aims to demystify financial topics and provide culturally relevant content, virtual experiences, and resources to help Latino users navigate financial challenges and opportunities, raised a $2.2M Seed Round . Radicle Impact led, and was joined by Vamos Ventures, OVO fund and the American Heart Association Impact Fund. - learn more
  • 222, a startup that helps users discover their city and meet new people through unique social experiences, raised a $2.5M Seed Round. Investors included 1517 Fund, General Catalyst, Best Nights VC, Scrum Ventures, and Upfront Ventures. - learn more
  • LimaCharlie, a security operations cloud platform, raised a $10.2M Series A led by Sands Capital. - learn more
  • Polycam, an app that uses a smartphone’s sensors to capture 3D scans of objects, raised an $18M Series A co-led by Left Lane Capital and Adjacent, and joined by Adobe Ventures and individuals like Chad Hurley and Shaun Maguire. -learn more.

LA Venture Funds

Actively Raising

  • ReelCall, Inc., an entertainment technology company focused on powerful apps and platforms that help build and maintain the professional network of connections vital to career growth, is raising a $850K Pre-Seed Round. - learn more
  • CZero, a startup building software to decarbonize logistics for logistics businesses and goods business through a vetted marketplace and optimization software. - learn more
  • Couri, a technology startup addressing last-mile delivery issues, is raising a $450K Pre-Seed Round at a $2.2M post money valuation. - learn more
  • Sweetie, a marketplace to help people plan date nights, is raising a $1.5M Pre Seed Round. - learn more
  • StartupStarter, an investment platform that provides real-time data and analytics on startups, is raising an $850K Angel Round. - learn more

If you’re a founder raising money in Los Angeles, give us a shout, and we’d love to include you in the newsletter!

Venture Waves, Climate Tech Wins, and Silicon Beach's Ongoing Evolution

Christian Hetrick

Christian Hetrick is dot.LA's Entertainment Tech Reporter. He was formerly a business reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer and reported on New Jersey politics for the Observer and the Press of Atlantic City.

Anduril Seeks $1.5B in VC Funds

Defense company Anduril Industries Inc., based in Costa Mesa and founded by Palmer Luckey, is seeking to raise $1.5 billion in fresh funds to boost its valuation to $12.5 billion or more, according to sources quoted by The Information. This fundraising effort, if successful, would mark one of the largest venture capital rounds of the year.

Image Source: Anduril

Anduril recently secured a contract to develop and test small unmanned fighter jet prototypes under the Air Force’s Collaborative Combat Aircraft (CCA) program, beating out major defense companies like Boeing, Lockheed Martin, and Northrop Grumman. Alongside General Atomics, Anduril will design, manufacture, and test these aircraft, with a final multibillion-dollar production decision expected in fiscal year 2026. This program aims to deliver at least 1,000 combat aircraft to fly in concert with manned platforms and is part of the Air Force’s Next Generation Air Dominance initiative. Central to Anduril’s success in this contract is the Fury autonomous air vehicle, acquired through the purchase of Blue Force Technologies. This victory underscores Anduril's rapid advancement in the defense sector, aligning with Luckey's vision of building faster and more cost-effective defense assets. - learn more

Los Angeles Ranks Number 1 in Emerging Climate Tech Hub

The 2024 Emerging Climate Tech Hubs Report by Revolution highlights Los Angeles as a burgeoning center for climate tech innovation. LA's growth in this sector is driven by its diverse talent pool, strong research institutions, and a culture of environmental consciousness. The city's unique mix of legacy industries, such as entertainment and aerospace, alongside emerging tech companies, positions it as a pivotal player in the climate tech landscape. This shift reflects a broader trend of decentralized climate tech funding across the U.S., reducing the historical dominance of California's traditional hubs. - learn more

Silicon Beach: Looking Back, Moving Forward

Assessing the overall health of the startup market is challenging, especially as venture capital funding has decreased by an average of 61% from 2021 to 2023 across the top VC markets in the US. Markets with robust ecosystems in AI, SaaS, Biotech, Healthtech, and Fintech appear to be weathering the downturn better than those focused on Consumer and Gaming industries, areas where Los Angeles traditionally excels.

Percent Change In VC Funding By Region

CB Insights

LA Times paints a rather bleak outlook on the Los Angeles tech scene noting venture capital funding in Greater Los Angeles plummeted 73% from 2021 to 2022. Silicon Beach, once a vibrant tech corridor, currently faces high vacancy rates and lacks late-stage financiers, especially in the AI sector. However, there are positive signs, including growth in aerospace startups and increased venture capital investment in early 2024, suggesting a potential rebound for LA's tech ecosystem.

While LA may not be exceeding expectations during this period, its tech ecosystem warrants a nuanced evaluation, given the broader market dynamics and its strong performance in specific sectors. Reach out to us with your thoughts.

🚀 SpaceX gears up for another stellar year, active raises, and more

Christian Hetrick

Christian Hetrick is dot.LA's Entertainment Tech Reporter. He was formerly a business reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer and reported on New Jersey politics for the Observer and the Press of Atlantic City.

Happy Friday Los Angeles! You made it through the first week of 2024!

🔦 Spotlight

Elon Musk may be a divisive (albeit entertaining) figure, but the continued success of SpaceX is pivotal for the aerospace industry in Los Angeles and more broadly around the world.

Image Source: SpaceX webcast

What happened with SpaceX in 2023?

  • Elon Musk challenged Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerberg to a cage fight.
  • SpaceX launched 96 successful missions with its Falcon series of rockets, a 57% increase over its previous annual record.
  • SpaceX conducted two test flights of the largest and most powerful rocket ever built, Starship.
  • Roughly two-thirds of SpaceX's launches in 2023 were devoted to building out Starlink, the company's satellite-internet megaconstellation.
  • Isaacson’s Elon Musk biography was published in September including everything from Musk’s tumultuous relationship with his father to his work ethic and “demon mode”.

Moving forward what can we expect from SpaceX and its controversial founder? Continued innovation pushing the aerospace industry to new limits? Yes. More drama? Without a doubt.

Here is some of what is to come in 2024:

🤝 Venture Deals

Just Announced

Check back next week!

LA Exits

  • CG Oncology, an Irvine, CA-based developer of immunotherapies for bladder cancer, filed for a $100M IPO. It plans to list on the Nasdaq (CGON) with Morgan Stanley as left lead underwriter, and has raised around $317m in VC funding. - learn more
  • McNally Capital agreed to sell Advanced Micro Instruments, a Costa Mesa, CA-based maker of gas analyzers and sensing technologies, to Enpro (NYSE: NPO). - learn more

Actively Raising

  • ReelCall, Inc., an entertainment technology company focused on powerful apps and platforms that help build and maintain the professional network of connections vital to career growth, is raising a $850K Pre-Seed Round. - learn more
  • CZero, a hard-tech startup that is developing a technology for decarbonizing natural gas, is raising a $1.5M Seed Round. - learn more
  • Couri, a technology startup addressing last-mile delivery issues, is raising a $450K Pre-Seed Round at a $2.2M post money valuation. - learn more
  • Sweetie, a marketplace to help people plan date nights, is raising a $250K Angel Round. - learn more
  • StartupStarter, an investment platform that provides real-time data and analytics on startups, is raising an $850K Angel Round. - learn more

If you’re a founder raising money in Los Angeles, give us a shout, and we’d love to include you in the newsletter!

📅 LA Tech Calendar

Sunday, January 7th

Wednesday, January 10th

  • Startup Cafe: Networking with a Kick - Entrepreneurs, Startups, and Tech Enthusiasts join together to meet and connect with like-minded people, industry professionals and investors, while enjoying a nice cup of coffee in Venice at The KINN. This week’s interactive discussion about AI’s evolution in entertainment will feature Dr. Sam Khoze and Rachel Joy Victor.
  • Venice Tech Happy Hour- Join Startup Coil and FoundrHaus Wednesday evening and enjoy the sunset from the rooftop, grab a bite overlooking Abbot Kinney, and mingle with other tech enthusiasts and entrepreneurs by the bar on the patio.

Have an awesome event coming up? Reach out to be featured on next week’s Newsletter!

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