In 2018, author Peter Rubin presented a true story of a couple who met in VR, fell in love with VR, and ultimately got married in VR in his book Future Presence. The story that took place on the gaming platform Rec Room gives us an insight into the future of relationships and that of such platforms.
The Seattle-based gaming company announced a $100M financing round last month that now values the company at $1.25B, making it the first official unicorn of the VR industry. Since last year, the company has tripled its player base and is raking in more than 1M monthly active users.
First released in 2016, Rec Room is a free app that brands itself as “the best place to build and play games together.” It was launched as a social VR world (sometimes referred to as a “metaverse”) but has branched towards players on flat screens.
It is unlike any conventional video game and is built as space where people can come together in both public and private rooms to hang out and play games. In addition, players can create custom virtual spaces that they and others can access.
The company’s CEO Nick Fajt said that they designed the platform to promote direct human connection. Play is a vehicle for connecting with others. While there are competitive games, like paintball, laser tag, and dodgeball, it’s more in the vein of game nights with friends than competitive esports tournaments.
“Most social apps today are actually very isolating,” Fajt said. “You’re interacting with an algorithmic feed, not another human. We wanted to build a place where people could come together to meet new people and create new memories. That’s been our goal since day one and it remains our goal today.”
In the beginning, when the VR headset sales failed to live up to industry expectations, the company decided to move beyond being a VR-exclusive platform to PC, PlayStation, iOS, and most recently, Xbox. Consequently, users in VR headsets can now play in real-time with those on consoles and iPhones or mix it up themselves now.
“We want Rec Room to be the most radically cross-platform social app in existence,” Fajt said. “At the end of the day, Rec Room is trying to connect people, not devices.”
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