While traditional gaming powers in Japan are nearly all focused on mobile, one of the country’s biggest publishers is looking toward a virtual future.
Colopl, which produces dozens of hit mobile games for iOS and Android, announced today that it is starting a $50 million fund that it will use to help upstart developers working in virtual reality. The publisher made the announcement on its Japanese website, where it explains that it is searching for partnerships with VR studios. The company also said that it will use its expertise to guide studios that it invests in. Tech advisor Digi-Capital has previously predicted that the VR and augmented reality markets will potentially generate as much as $150 billion in revenue by 2020, and Colopl specifically cited that report as one of the reasons it is chasing after this exciting technology.
This comes at a time when Samsung and Oculus VR have released their Gear VR head-mounted display for the Galaxy handsets and as we are only months away from Oculus, HTC, and Sony all releasing devices dedicated to bringing VR to consumers. Colopl’s VR fund is also just one of many investments into the burgeoning VR sector. It joins obvious companies like Facebook, which acquired market leader Oculus for $2 billion in 2014. But Colopl is also joining a crowd that has seen dozens of companies, including Japanese competitors Gumi and Gree, invest more than $1 billion in this space in the last 12 months alone, according to Digi-Capital. This suggests that smart people at some monied corporations believe that original $150 billion-by-2020 report has some truth to it.
“The VR community in Japan is actually very large, so I am not that surprised to see Colopl announcing such a big fund,” game industry analyst Serkan Toto told GamesBeat. “[Especially since] it’s the first mobile game developer in Japan that started VR development and built up an internal team of engineers focusing on the field.”
Colopl has already produced an Oculus Rift version of its Rune Story game, which is one of its biggest hits. One of the company’s subsidiaries also released the 360Channel app to distribute 360-degree virtual videos.
“So the VR fund is a continuation of that trend,” said Toto.
In a canned statement, auto translated by Google, Colopl chief executive Naruatsu Baba explained that he believes VR will have a chance at succeeding if it establishes itself as a platform equivalent to PC or smartphones. He goes on to say that Colopl can contribute to turning VR intot hat kind of platform.
“With the VR market predicted to reach US$30 billion in scale by 2020, VR can be the next most widely-adopted entertainment and communication platform, like PCs, the Internet, and smartphones,” said Baba. “COLOPL seeks to invigorate developers already involved in VR with a best-in-its-class industry-focused fund. This way, we can help VR expand beyond video games into other fields, and ultimately provide new experiences unlike anything human beings have seen before.”
It’s understandable why that is a goal for any company looking at the VR space because if it is truly worth billions of dollars, then whoever controls distribution of software — in the same way Apple and Google do on smartphones — stands to make a whole lot of money.