Gaming has been one of the most popular entertainment categories over the past two years of pandemic life. Now, a gaming startup building a new kind of platform it says will be a — wait for it — game-changer in the category is announcing funding to ride that wave of attention.
PortalOne, which is building an immersive gaming platform that describes itself as hybrid in more ways than one – it mixes games with a game show/talk show format, and it’s designed to run on a variety of devices, from mobile to consoles and VR headsets – picked up $60 million. The startup – based in Oslo but with a significant presence also in Los Angeles – plans to use the funding to continue to develop its platform and operations en route to its first commercial launch: PortalOne Arcade, a journey into an “arcade ” retro with several Games.
PortalOne Arcade has been running in a closed beta since last year, and the company runs a sign-up list for those interested in trying it out, but what the team has built and their plans for the future is enough. to attract very big names.
Tiger Global is leading this round, a Series A, with participation from TQ Ventures, Temasek, Avenir Growth, Founders Fund, Talis Capital, Connect Ventures, Animoca Brands, Access industries and Scooter Braun’s Coatue Management, as well as “a number of -profile of angel investors,” the company said. The round comes about eight months after PortalOne raised a $15 million seed round, also notable for its size and backers. It included the icon of Atari games, which is working with PortalOne to include some of its brands and IPs in this Arcade launch.
Bård Anders Kasin, CEO of PortalOne who co-founded the startup with his brother Stig Olav, said in an interview that the company plans to release PortalOne Arcade later this year, but in closed beta the startup has now produced some 200 shows. . He said it proves his belief that the technology he has assembled – which combines cutting-edge game design, live streaming, interactivity and a low-cost approach to capturing and processing video in the cloud – is scalable.
“That’s a very high number of shows, considering the complexity involved,” he said.
Stig spent time in Los Angeles building the company’s studio there and the plan will be to set up more in other cities around the world.
PortalOne is building its business in the middle of a perfect storm.
First, games, like other streaming entertainment, have saved the lives of many homebound consumers during the pandemic. This has led to record levels of interest and engagement in games, and this in turn has driven a host of new entrants into the space (including some from other entertainment verticals, like Netflix).
It’s also helped the category become one of the hottest tech startups around, with investors rushing to invest in what they believe to be the most promising players in the field. Over the past two weeks, Yahaha and Spyke have announced that they have raised $50 million and $55 million, respectively – neither of them having launched anything yet. (Both are running closed betas and other pilots, costly efforts in themselves in this area.) Meanwhile, a more established, but still very young startup (it launched last year), called Dream Games, has now reached a paper valuation of $2.75. billion after its cycle, which was also announced earlier this month.
Second, PortalOne fits right in with the times. “Metaverse” has become one of buzzing slogans of the moment, and although it leans dangerously close to being overused and rendered insignificant (or has it already happened?), at the moment it is attracting a lot of interest among companies large and small who wonder how and if they can fit into this new realm.
PortalOne seems almost tailor-made to fill a gap in the Metaverse: one of the big problems with VR and AR (two of the Metaverse’s precursor concepts and industry efforts) has been a decided lack of compelling content, as well as other obstacles involving hardware and more. With its “hybrid” mantra, PortalOne positions itself as extremely flexible, there to be used on any platform a user might have at hand.
And its focus on creating both (streaming) entertainment mixed with engaging play, leveraging many familiar game brands alongside completely new titles, is a mix that, again, will potentially be on the verge of appeal to different demographics, different users, and the different mindsets consumers may have when they turn to their screens.
Bard tells me that the startup has spoken to a fairly wide range of companies in the gaming and social ecosystems – from those operating platforms, to console giants and those who publish content, and companies that are creating technologies to make all of this happen. But to be clear, the company is for now at least very focused on building its own walled garden, the Arcade, where people will play. That is, even if or when PortalOne creates an experience for use in someone else’s metaverse (or more prosaically a third-party console), it will cling to bringing people into its own world.” metaverse”.
This is partly due to the way PortalOne has built its platform.
“One of the big things we figured out early on was how to scale that,” Bard said, “to be able to produce the amount of content that we can in a modular, efficient platform. That’s A cost-effective breakthrough: Our hybrid game production is well below industry standards. The modular approach has both to do with how video and gameplay are captured, but also with how PortalOne reuses components in different games (with all those components in the cloud) “It’s part of our secret sauce.”
This sauce is something that investors think will appeal to the mass market.
“We believe PortalOne is creating an innovative experience at the intersection of gaming and entertainment. We are thrilled to support the Kasin brothers and their talented team as they continue to build and grow the business!” Tiger Global partner Evan Feinberg said in a statement.
“PortalOne is building a platform that brings together the most popular forms of entertainment into a seamless experience that will appeal to all categories of artists,” added Scooter Braun. “It’s the next place to be in the world of immersive gaming, with limitless content possibilities.”