Virtual reality goggle maker has raised a massive round of $75 million led by Netscape founder Marc Andreessen’s Andreessen Horowitz venture capital firm to create a consumer version of its product.
The funding values Irvine, Calif.-based Oculus VR at a huge amount and will give the company a new level of credibility as a platform player in the video game market. The money will go toward staffing up to build a commercial version of the Oculus VR virtual reality goggles.
The investment by Andreessen shows how much currency Oculus has gained by doing something innovative in games at a time in which Microsoft and Sony have launched new video game consoles. Many players have bemoaned the fact that the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One deliver better 3D graphics but not much in the way of innovation.
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Brendan Iribe, the chief executive of Oculus VR, said at our GamesBeat 2013 conference that the company was working on a mobile version of its goggles. That was one of the lures that attracted John Carmack, the game guru at id Software, to join Oculus VR weeks ago as its chief technical officer.
Andreessen Horowitz led the round, which also included significant additional investment from earlier-round investors Spark Capital, Matrix Partners, and Formation|8.
“Over the past 16 months, we’ve grown from a start-up to a company whose virtual reality headset is poised to change the way we play, work and communicate,” said Iribe said in a statement. “Forty thousand developers and enthusiasts, as well as a number of great partners, have joined our cause and helped us bring the seemingly impossible to life. This additional infusion of capital, as well as the leadership and experience of Marc Andreessen, will help us take the final steps toward our ultimate goal: making virtual reality something consumers everywhere can enjoy.”
Andreessen, the man who led Netscape and created the modern web browser in the early 1990s, has made some bets on game companies before. But the investment in Oculus VR is his biggest gaming bet to date.
“We believe Oculus will not only alter the gaming landscape but will redefine fundamental human experiences in areas like film, education, architecture, and design. Oculus is at the tip of the iceberg of its potential, and we’re incredibly excited to help them change the world,” said Andreessen in a statement.
Oculus VR previously raised $16 million in a Series A, $2.4 million through its Kickstarter campaign – almost 10 times its fundraising goal – and has sold more than 40,000 Oculus Rift development kits to date to developers that are actively supporting the headset.
The Oculus Rift is a virtual reality headset that makes you feel like you’re inside a game world. It provides an immersive, stereoscopic 3D experience with a huge field of view—110 degrees diagonally—and that overcomes latency challenges.
“The games industry is well past the point where more pixels, texels, flops, and frames displayed on the same fixed screens are really changing the experiences that players get. I could say the same about other digital experiences as well. What will revolutionize gaming, and interactive content in general, is putting people inside the digital world. That is our goal at Oculus, and this Series B will help us get there,” said Carmack.
Oculus is hiring engineers and hasn’t set a date for its commercial launch yet.
Carmack started making games in the late 1980s but id Software was formally created in 1991. The company became famous for pioneering the first-person shooter genre with Wolfenstein 3D and Doom. It was acquired by Bethesda in 2009, and it has been working on the latest installment of the Doom series.
In little more than a year, the Oculus Rift has captured the imagination of fans on Kickstarter, where it raised $2.4 million via crowdfunding from thousands of people. It has won numerous trade-show awards for best new technology, and it began selling developer systems for $300. Those developers have been making cool demos, like a skydiving demo.