The future of virtual and immersive in 2023 - and beyond!

The future of virtual and immersive in 2023 – and beyond!

Stoic Entertainment CEO HeongSeok Kim talks to The Virtual Report about the company’s history, plans for the future, and the truth about virtual and immersive markets in 2023 and beyond.

The virtual report: Tell us more about the company – when/where was it founded, what was the purpose?

Hongseok Kim: Stoic was founded in March 2014 in Korea and is now a nine-year-old company. We started as an augmented reality (AR) content developer and initially developed an app to virtually place furniture in rooms using Qualcomm’s Vuforia in Unity engine for smartphones. We worked with one of the most famous furniture companies in Korea, but IKEA launched a similar service just before our app was released. The project therefore went through some difficulties.

Since 2016, we have focused on Virtual Reality (VR) content, especially VR games, and have developed 12 titles so far. We decided at the time to become the “VR Supercell”.

TVR: Tell us about the company’s success to date – games, funding, releases, key partnerships, etc.

Hongseok Kim: Over the past eight years, the 12 VR games and four AR projects we developed were mainly for offline theme parks. “World War Toons: Tank Arena VR”, which we started developing since 2019, is our first mainstream (B2C) platform game created with our VR gaming know-how. It launched on the Meta Quest store on December 8.

We had a successful pre-A funding in 2021 and our Series A funding is almost complete. We managed to secure total funding of approximately KRW 10 billion (US$7.6 million).

Our main global business partners are Meta (Meta Quest), Sony (PSVR) and PICO (ByteDance).
Our Korean partners include SK Telecom, Korea’s largest telecommunications company (which is in charge of Meta Quest 2 hardware sales in Korea).

TVR: What is the state of the VR market in 2022? Are games a key driver for the virtual reality market?

Hongseok Kim: The VR content market is absolutely dependent on the supply of the head-mounted display (HMD) market. This is akin to the fluctuation of the mobile content market affected by the availability of smartphones.

With over 15 million Meta Quest 2 devices sold in 2022, this year marked a major turning point in the VR content ecosystem. It only took 79 days for Meta Quest 2 to sell one million devices after its launch. That’s comparable to the 75 days it took for the iPhone to sell that much. Meta Quest 2 has led the changes in the VR content market, just as the iPhone did for the mobile content market.

However, I think games are more of a starting point than a key driver for the market. When new devices hit the market, easy-to-access entertainment services for general users are the ones that get the most attention.

I expect entertainment domains such as celebrity music videos, chat services, and games to be the starting points and breakthrough media for new worlds of virtual reality.

TVR: Who are the market leaders in virtual reality, both on the hardware and software side? What are the best performing headsets – and why?

Hongseok Kim: The most important hardware on the VR market is the Meta Quest 2, hands down. Until a year or two ago, HTC’s VIVE, Meta’s Oculus Go & Oculus Rift (formerly Facebook), Sony’s PSVR, China’s PICO & DPVR and a host of devices were vying for growth.

However, HMDs that required a PC connection had cost versus performance issues that caused them to lag behind, and currently Meta Quest 2, which has shown decent performance with a relatively low price of around $399, has secured more than 90% of the hardware market. Next year, we should all turn a blind eye to PICO’s HMD, which was acquired by TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance.

TVR: What are the biggest challenges facing the VR market over the next 18-24 months? How should the industry approach them?

Hongseok Kim: The biggest problem for the virtual reality market in the next two to three years will certainly be the availability of HMDs. Content development is tied to hardware. As we have seen in the cases of many consoles such as Nintendo, PlayStation and Xbox, as well as PCs and smartphones, killer content can only debut after a certain level of material can be distributed. in certain numbers. Then content and killer material influence each other, resulting in improvements on both sides.

For the VR market, to be frank, these premier content/services have yet to be fully established. However, with the 15 million sales of Meta Quest 2, I think it’s high time for the killer content and services to appear. When these services make their mark and demand for the hardware skyrockets, that’s when the worlds of VR will truly take off, so to speak.

TVR: What to expect from the VR market in 2023 and beyond? What are the biggest changes we should expect?

Hongseok Kim: In 2023, Meta Quest 3, Sony’s PSVR2, Apple’s glasses and other innovative products are expected to hit the market. Then day-to-day services other than the entertainment sectors, such as office environment programs and utilities, will become supercharged.

Next year should be the year of expansion beyond entertainment for virtual reality and augmented reality, intrinsically connecting to everyday life – when content/service developers can seize greater opportunities.

In truth, the hardware, which requires huge costs, will be in the hands of the big global technology companies. Thus, “fun and essential services” that run in new innovative devices will be developed by agile small and medium-sized developers.

Predictions for the VR market after 2023 will require intense discussions and solutions on how to merge the expanding world of VR and reality.

TVR: Where did the idea for World War Toons: Tank Arena come from? Was virtual reality the focus from the start?

Hongseok Kim: World Ware Toons: Tank Arena VR original IP is from a VR game released for PlayStation VR1 in 2016. The original game was a first person shooter (FPS) VR project developed over four years by the studio American Roqovan with developers who worked on the Call of Duty series and artists who worked at Pixar/Disney.

Stoic Entertainment signed a deal to use the original IP in 2019, then focused and expanded on the tanks from the original FP game to create a spin-off, which became World War Toons: Tank Arena VR. We focused on tanks because in 2019 Stoic was mainly developing VR games for offline VR theme parks, so we wanted to make a game that had rides (vehicles) for attractions (simulators).

TVR: What are the plans for the game – release date(s), markets, target audience?

Hongseok Kim: World Ware Toons: Tank Arena VR will launch on December 8, 2022 for the Meta Quest store. Our main targets are male players between the ages of 18 and 36. The game’s internal nickname is “VR Overwatch”. Each tank in the game has unique perks, and can take on roles such as tanks (pardon the pun), damage dealers, and healers. So you can form groups and take on different roles as you enter the battlefield. Additionally, players can also play solo like in Overwatch, so it will appeal to many players with varying tastes who love fighting games.

Additionally, you can also freely change tank skins and gun barrel decorations to show off your style, and an update for a campaign mode is also in the works, so we highly recommend it to anyone who is thirsty for more. a VR game with something more than repetitive combat!

TVR: What is the company’s vision for the metaverse – or the future of shared immersive experiences?

Hongseok Kim: Last year, the whole world was delighted with the keyword ‘metaverse’. It’s quite similar to the “mobile” fever of 2000-2001 and the virtual reality craze of 2014-2016. The press, in each of these eras, has also shown strong interest in these keywords, suggesting that mobile/VR dominance will sweep the world. But in fact, I’m of the opinion that the mobile market only really took off in 2007 with the advent of the iPhone, and the VR market really started from 2021 with the release of Meta Quest 2.

The metaverse, in concept, started from the novel “Snow Crash” in the 1990s, but seems to have gained excessive attention due to the COVID19 crisis. Of course, I have no objection to the argument that humanity’s future is gradually heading towards a metaverse universe.

However, I believe that this era has not yet come to fruition and that new technologies such as AR or VER will be the bridge that will generate new content and services as they improve and mature.

As we are now dependent on mobile services for reading news, shopping and browsing with our smartphones, it is only when our daily activities are immersed in virtual reality that the true era of the metaverse will take shape. Of course, this is just my personal opinion, as the definition of what encompasses the metaverse differs for each person.

TVR: What is your dream project?

Hongseok Kim: Whenever our VR game development hits a snag, we always watch Steven Spielberg’s “Ready Player One” movie. I think we’ve watched it over 20 times now. We once considered The Void in America to be the ultimate VR travel destination. However, we now hope to contribute – however small – to the realization of virtual services related to daily life, instead of focusing only on the entertainment side of the industry.

It is more or less that. Our company’s goal is “to gain the energy to live in the real world through the fun experiences of the virtual world”. Thanks.

#future #virtual #immersive

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