Since the emergence of the digital pandemic, video games and online video streaming have been the two most popular forms of entertainment.
Additionally, hybrid gaming startup PortalOne, which has created an app that provides those two forms of entertainment combined, has just revealed a sizable seed round of funding as it prepares to launch out of closed beta.
As it prepares to launch its on-demand gaming and live-streaming platform, PortalOne has announced a $15 million seed round of funding. Users will soon be able to watch shows in which they can compete against a celebrity or other notable figure, as well as participate in games against other PortalOne users.
Who Is Investing?
One of the reasons this firm and its funding are so interesting is the high calibre of its backers.
Among them are Atari and ARRI, a camera manufacturer, as well as Founders Fund, TQ Ventures, Rogue Capital Partners (Alice Lloyd George’s new fund), Coatue Management (especially Arielle Zuckerberg), Seedcamp, Signia Venture Partners (through Sunny Dhillon), Talis Capital, and SN Ventures from Europe.
Other investors include Kevin Lin, co-founder of Twitch; Marc Merrill, co-founder of Riot Games; Amy Morhaime, co-founder of Dreamhaven; Mike Morhaime, co-founder of Blizzard and Dreamhaven; Eugene Wei, former head of Video at Oculus and current head of Product at Hulu; Xen Lategan, former CTO and executive advisor at many companies, including Hulu; and others.
A hybrid of a software startup and a media conglomerate, PortalOne does a little bit of everything. In order to provide a service that mixes on-demand and live gaming and entertainment, the business has spent the past three years constructing a whole stack of hardware and software that can be used for game development, live show recording, and integrating the two.
Brd Anders Kasin, the company’s co-founder and CEO, has remarked, “One of the benefits of creating first is that what we are doing is really hard to achieve on a technical level,” adding, “The manner we do it is the key.” It’s the key to our success.”
In contrast, it uses technology to build a gaming and live events platform and brand, providing a home for both its own and third-party creation of games and larger live experiences in the area. The firm thinks it has achieved something that has eluded competitors for years.
Brd’s brother and fellow co-founder Stig Olav Kasin said, “We come from the entertainment industry and have also been in games for many years,” adding, “We’ve talked to all the big companies and know that hybrid gaming combining games and TV is difficult,” presumably because of the silos within companies where several groups “own” TV and gaming.
The company has been testing a basic version of its service in the United States and Norway, including two games called Blockbuster (which has you knocking over blocks with a huge ball) and Centipede (which is like Centipede but better), as well as talk shows that take place in a living room that is entirely computer-generated in a green screen studio.
Users using a VR headset or a smartphone can access all of this content and compete for “prizes” based on their performance in various games. And that’s not all: the business will also trade in virtual items.
The company has big plans for 2019, starting with a rollout in the United States and Norway of PortalOne Arcade, a collection of retro arcade games from the 1980s redone as multiplayer, hypnotic experiences coupled with interactive talk shows.
They are brothers Brd Anders Kasin, who co-created a VR company and worked as a technical director at Warner Brothers on films like “The Matrix” trilogy, and Stig Olav Kasin, who joined his brother in the VR industry and founded PortalOne in 2018.
When PortalOne launched its closed beta, it focused on building out its infrastructure, content concepts, and initial partnerships.
This was not a simple undertaking. Its IPs include but are not limited to VR, gaming tech, computer vision, software, and hardware for recording and streaming video that significantly reduces the necessary resources for both.
A challenge the company has faced is creating content suitable for the hybrid platform it envisions.
In general, the usage of volumetric devices, the studios setup required to record the experiences, and others that engage Hollywood movie studio size, manpower, and prices make it difficult and expensive to capture enthralling experiences.
Since “we have daily shows and we want to scale and mass produce more daily performances for each game,” said Brd, the company’s innovation has been to convert that process into something that can create more easily and absolutely at a lower cost substantially.
Just two other people, technician-producers prompting effects and regulating when the action switches from talking to the game and back again in the PortalOne configuration, are involved besides the host, a nice Norwegian with a significantly American English accent named Markus Bailey, and his guest.
Brd remarked that “today we can accomplish all of this in a YouTube-sized studio,” whereas before, “big sets and a lot of people” were necessary.
In addition, it was revealed that PortalOne is creating its own games in terms of content while also adopting a retro gaming style.
“Massive opportunities continue to emerge in the interactive entertainment space as distribution and business models evolve,” said Kirill Tasilov, a principal at Talis Capital, in a statement. “PortalOne is redefining mobile by unlocking new hybrid experiences at the intersection of games and video, and we are thrilled to be a part of their journey.”
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Blurring the Lines
The line separating what is considered a game, what is considered interactive, and what is considered linear entertainment has been blurring for years, so what PortalOne is doing isn’t wholly novel in some aspects.
In reality, game shows, one of the earliest TV formats, may be seen as an early stage in hybrid interactivity, albeit the concept was supported in new ways by more contemporary programmes like the ones Stig helped to design, with interactive voting from at-home audiences via phones.
The COVID-19 epidemic and the fact that many in-person live events were cancelled, in the interim, certainly opened the door for content players to think creatively about constructing new kinds of “live” shows.
Since Marshmello’s “show” in Fortnite in 2019 was so well received, the game has seen 12 million players attend its Travis Scott concert earlier this year, and Roblox has since announced that its performance with Lil Nas will pave the way for future events.
Signia Venture Partners partner Dhillon said, “When we see virtual concerts inside of TikTok, Roblox, and Fortnite, it’s great but PortalOne offers an evolution of interactive metaverse entertainment — true real-time, one-to-many interaction between gamers around the world, all in a mobile-native hybrid game format.”
Still, it would be a testament to what PortalOne has created if major platforms began to follow suit. However, they may also create their own live game programmes and completely eclipse PortalOne’s infant market presence.
Its investment in R&D could pay off or backfire in this regard. The success of entertainment based on video games is notoriously difficult to predict, and the same is likely true of the entertainment based on other forms of media that feature video games.
Kevin Lin predicted that “the next great social platform would likely be a convergence of media with gaming at its core — a really unique immersive interactive experience,” and he sees PortalOne as a leading candidate for this role.
It’s true that if PortalOne can find people interested in what it’s making, it will have the means to better fulfil that interest at lower cost. But if it can’t hit the appropriate note, the question becomes how and if that technology will be used in any other context.
Currently, for Investors, It Is More About the Opportunity
According to Braun, “as PortalOne expands, it is fusing the gaming and entertainment industries into a single interactive experience and endless opportunities for content creation.” He continued, “Creators and performers alike want new and innovative ways to bring their craft to life, and PortalOne is meeting that demand in a way that no other business has done.”
It will be a pleasure to contribute to the team’s effort to bring their innovative plan to fruition. This is unlike anything else I have ever seen.
Additionally, Founders Fund principal Delian Asparouhov noted, “We fund companies that we believe have high potential to become global category leaders,” and, “PortalOne develops a new category and simultaneously the platform that is obviously destined to dominate that new category.”
Potential is sky-high, the market is ready, and opportunities abound. There will be a “before” and “after” PortalOne.
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