Rec Room increases the number of users during the pandemic to become a VR unicorn

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Gaming platform REC Room is now a unicorn, worth $ 1.25 billion during a recent $ 100 million funding round. It appears to be one of the first, if not the first, virtual reality-focused start-up to achieve unicorn status, a remarkable achievement since Facebook’s historic acquisition of Oculus VR for $ 2.4 billion in 2014 helped it setting up the modern VR business.

Founded in 2016, REC Room is a free app that allows players to build custom virtual spaces and games that can be played on a variety of platforms. The Seattle-based company launched on Steam as a VR-focused platform and expanded to non-VR platforms in 2018. It is now available on Xbox, PlayStation, iOS and PC. CEO Nick Fajt said in an interview with The edge that VR usage on the platform has increased during the holiday season, partly as a result of sale of the Oculus Quest 2 headset

In 2020, REC Room saw a 566 percent increase in sales – most of it from in-game purchases – and it now has more than 15 million lifetime users. Fajt says the company now has 1 million monthly active VR users, a number that tripled during the pandemic. The Wall Street Journal reported

The platform’s primary users are teens between the ages of 13 and 16, Fajt said REC Room benefited from the fact that students were online longer during the 2020 coronavirus blockades. But it also grew in popularity before people were locked up at home.

“The pandemic accelerated trends that we have seen for several years,” said Fajt. “A lot of people are looking for a digital third place that stands out from home and school or work, where they can meet friends, hang out, explore and be creative. I think that was true whether teens went to school physically or on Zoom. People need such a space. ”

He added that while it’s possible the platform will see a decrease in the number of users if teens can gather in person, he sees REC Room as more than just a substitute for socializing in real life. “It helps a lot of people to interact with friends who are hundreds or thousands of miles away,” said Fajt. “These are friends separated by physical distance, not just social distance. So if REC Room has become part of your routine, I suspect it will remain that way after the pandemic. “

REC Room is preparing for an IPO in the coming years. Meanwhile, other gaming platforms continue to grow thanks to a boost from pandemic audiences. Roblox, an online gaming platform for slightly younger users than REC Room ‘s, has also seen a surge in use during the pandemic. Roblox went public via direct listing earlier this month and said in his prospectus that it has 31.1 million daily users, who have spent an average of 2.6 hours per day on the platform over the past year.

Roblox told The edge last summer, more than half of American children and teens under 16 played the game. There has been a lot during the pandemic wringing hands about the increased screen time of children, but games like Roblox and Epic Games’ Fortnite provide socialization, just not the personal kind we may be used to.

Before the pandemic, the appetite to develop new AR and VR hardware started to wane somewhat – Jim Ryan, CEO of Sony PlayStation, suggested in October that an update to Sony’s PlayStation VR headset was still a few years away. (Sony has since teased more details about its next version of PlayStation VR with a formal product announcement, followed by images of its new controllers.)

But other companies have been ramping up their AR and VR hardware efforts for years. The information reported earlier this month that Facebook has about 10,000 employees – about a fifth of its workforce – focused on new devices in both areas, and the company has already shown prototypes of experimental research products and plans to launch a few Ray-Ban- market branded products. smart glasses later this year. It has long been rumored that Apple is also working on AR and VR hardware, and recent reports suggest the iPhone maker will introduce a VR device sometime in 2022.

“The market has shown an increased interest in gaming companies,” said Fajt. “I think that will only increase as more data becomes available about the strength and sustainability of these companies.”