A VR basketball game for the Metaverse raises $8 million

LOS ANGELES — Soon, people won’t have to go outside to play a physical game of basketball.

What do you want to know

  • IRL Studios received $8 million to further develop Gym Class VR, a virtual reality basketball game
  • Gym Class VR lets players channel their inner basketball player using a virtual reality headset and gamepad controller
  • Venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz provided the investment
  • IRL Studios said it plans to use the money to further develop the game

By donning a pair of virtual reality headsets and holding a pair of controllers inside their home, a Santa Monica-based company has created a game that lets gamers channel their inner LeBron James or Kawhi Leonard into the metaverse. , where everything is possible.

Gym Class VR, available at Meta’s Application Lab, brings players together in the virtual world to play virtual basketball against other players in different locations around the world and still get the same kind of community and physical training.

“Our goal is to build a digital sport and create digital basketball superstars,” said Paul Katsen, co-founder and chief product officer at IRL Studios, the creator of Gym Class, in an interview with Spectrum News.

IRL Studios is about to make that a reality.

With Gym Class VR amassing over 64 million views on TikTok from gamers sharing their content on social media, the company recently raised over $8 million in a seed round to continue developing the game for the metaverse.

Venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz and other angel investors provided the money.

In a press release, officials from Andreessen Horowitz said that this virtual reality game was the dawn of a new digital era.

“We are convinced that games, virtual worlds and digital sports will be the new social networks,” said Andrew Chen, partner, Andreessen Horowitz, in a press release. “Gym Class signals the dawn of digital sports. It has the traction and has the right team behind it to realize the true potential of social virtual reality. We strongly believe in the vision and the team that has already proven that Gym Class has huge audiences and opportunities.

Developed in 2020 by a group of basketball-loving friends in the tech industry as a side gig, Gym Class was a way for the group of friends to replicate the sense of community they feel on a basketball court.

Katsen, a Chicago native living in Austin, said the basketball court is where he hangs out with friends, relaxes and catches up.

Although social media is supposed to bring people together, Katsen said many social products are becoming less social these days.

So he and his partners turned their attention to creating a game that could bring people together in the virtual world at the same time.

The team developed Gym Class VR at the end of 2020 and had a prototype the following year.

The game has multiple modes once a player enters. There is a shootout mode, passing drills, or playing on open ground. The player can play on public land and invite friends in a one-on-one or three-on-three game. The player can also create and customize an avatar.

Unlike traditional basketball video games, where players sit on a couch and operate their virtual selves with their thumbs on a handheld controller, with virtual reality headsets and joysticks, players often have to mimic the movement basketball.

To jump, a player must squat and straighten their legs.

To shoot, a player must imitate an actual shot.

“It’s a workout and burns hundreds of calories,” he said.

The free game is available on the Meta/Oculus AppLab with nearly a million downloads.

With the additional investment money, Katsen said they plan to grow the community and add more features like creating leagues and fitness content.

“We’re preparing to launch in the Oculus store this fall,” he said.

The main complaint he hears from people about virtual reality is that it doesn’t replace the real-life experience. If people want to play basketball, they should just go out.

But Katsen sees it differently. People usually can’t play basketball after it gets dark or even at 3 a.m.

“The reality is that we’re not competing with people who go out and play,” he said. “What we’re doing is improving their digital experience.”

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