1) PLAN YOUR TRIP TO TOKYO TO PLAY MARIO KART IN VR
Book your flights now, because the lines are undoubtedly going to be long at the upcoming VR Zone Shinjuku in Tokyo. Not only will Bandai Namco’s flagship VR arcade boast VR experiences like Ghost in the Shell and Dragon Ball Z, but will also feature a VR experience where you can become everyone’s favorite cartoon Italian plumber Mario… or Yoshi, or the Princess, or Bowser! You’ll be able to sit in a real-world go-kart rig and race around in the virtual world. It’s interesting to note that although Nintendo did not directly develop this virtual version of the 2005 arcade classic Mario Kart GP, it is an official remake and has Nintendo’s blessing… but the experience will be using the HTC Vive and not Nintendo hardware (will the Nintendo Switch soon be the first VR-compatible hardware from Nintendo???). OK, OK, it’s not open until 2019 but we’re still too tickled.
Related Stocks: BANDAI NAMCO Holdings Inc. ($NCBDF), HTC Corporation ($2498.TW)
2) FIRST VR ESPORTS LEAGUE FORMS AND INTEL GOES WIRELESS AT E3
Intel had a bright presence at E3, showing off their wireless solution for the HTC Vive for the first time in public as well as announcing a virtual reality eSports league. Their headset add-on that enables you to cut the cord on your headset was first announced back at CES earlier this year, and we’re waiting on an official release date. Teaming up with Oculus and ESL, Intel declared the world’s first virtual reality eSports league-- with a prize pool of $200K. If you want to get a piece of that sweet cash, start practicing: the two featured multiplayer games are The Unspoken from Insomniac Games and Echo Arena from Ready at Dawn.
3) BRAND NAME GAMES COME TO VR: E3 HIGHLIGHTS
At E3, the annual bonanza of gaming, there was plenty of big names that announced their first forays into VR: name brands like Fallout 4, Doom, Skyrim, Final Fantasy… even the Walking Dead is creating a VR series. Sony’s PSVR has some interesting originals coming out as well, like Bravo Team from Supermassive (who did Until Dawn, and are also launching Inpatient which is actually a VR prequel to Until Dawn), a mysterious sci-fi focused Star Child, and an adventure game called Moss with a cute little mouse hero. One big name that was notably missing from the VR news at E3 was Microsoft-- who, contrary to many predictions, did not announce anything VR-related for Xbox. When pressed as to why, the head of Xbox said that the Microsoft is concentrating on Windows Mixed Reality for now, and that there are too many hurdles for in-house gaming adoption by consumers-- and referred specifically to cords as an issue (maybe they can ask Intel for help with that?).
Related Stocks: Sony Corporation ($SNE), Microsoft Corporation ($MSFT), Intel Corporation ($INTC)
4) SAMSUNG BUYS A SOCIAL VR CARD
Based in New York, a startup called VRB (pronounced “verb”) has been acquired by Samsung. Creating social VR methods of expression and communication as well as several applications for 360 video content, the acquisition was quiet and the terms undisclosed-- although sources have said the sum is $5.5M and now all VRB-made apps’ terms of service say that the company is now officially a division of Samsung Research America.
Related Stocks: Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd ($005930.KS)
5) INVESTMENT & FUNDING WRAPUP
San Rafael, CA-based Nomadic VR has raised $6M in funding to expand their team and growth of their location-based VR entertainment tech: a modular, turnkey solution that can be installed at theme parks, resorts, arcades, cinemas, and more. The founders have an impressive resume from the gaming and entertainment industries, most notably working on such productions as Star Wars, The Mummy, Pirates of the Caribbean, The Matrix: Revolutions. This round of seed funding was led by Horizons Ventures, with participation from Vulcan Capital, Verus International, Presence Capital, and Maveron.
Based in Palo Alto, CA, Osso VR has raised $2M to progress production of their VR surgical training simulations. The co-founders are veterans of the medical device industry as well as professional game development, and the seed round was led by SignalFire and Anorak Ventures participated.
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