Genvid Technologies has raised $1.5 million to enable a new kind of esports livestream broadcast.
Investors in New York-based Genvid include Los Angeles-based March Capital Partners, with Chicago’s OCA Ventures participating. Founded by former tech and business leaders of Square Enix’s now-defunct Shinra Technologies division, Genvid is building tools that developers can use to create more compelling and interactive esports broadcasts.
“We are thrilled to work with March Capital Partners under the leadership of managing director Gregory Milken,” said Genvid CEO Jacob Navok, in a statement. “Our investment partners have a keen understanding of how interactive live streaming will transform media in the future. Genvid is leading an emerging and massive opportunity of developer broadcast solutions, enabling their viewers to engage directly with streams.”
As GamesBeat noted in our exclusive story on Genvid in June, Genvid uses cool tech to bring multiple camera angles and interactivity into the live streams of furious game matches, viewed either on a monitor or in virtual reality.
Over time, Genvid wants to enable developers to control the camera angles of esports broadcasts as if they were sitting in the broadcast editing booth of a major sports event. The company says this could help esports companies achieve what has been lacking so far: better storytelling, more emotion, a focus on the most-exciting players and action, and a step up in broadcast quality.
In esports matches, it can sometimes be hard to figure out what’s going on. And often, games are built mainly with the needs of players in mind, rather than spectators. As a result, esports broadcasts, which are generating an estimated $325 million in sponsorship and marketing revenues this year (according to market researcher Newzoo), could eventually attract wider, more casual audiences, Navok told us in June.
The viewer might be able to control the camera, or it could automatically focus on who is the most popular at the moment.
Genvid was born in March from the ashes of another ambitious startup. Navok ran business development for Shinra Technologies, which shut down earlier this year after trying to create massive server-based games with cloud streaming technology. Shinra had the support of Square Enix, the big Japanese game publisher, but the company struggled for various reasons and closed down. Navok continued to look at opportunities in interactive streaming, and he has teamed up with former Shinra veterans. Shinra’s former chairman, Yoichi Wada, the ex-CEO of Square Enix, is an adviser for Genvid.
Right now, players and Twitch make money from esports livestreams on Twitch. But developers could also make money through something like Genvid, Navok believes.
Genvid’s demo is built on top of the new Unreal Tournament 2016 Alpha and is being made available to developers with the permission of Epic Games. The demo, using live matches that are broadcast to Twitch.tv, allows viewers to click on the video itself to directly interact with the game that they are watching. Genvid’s technology additionally converts real-time popularity data back into the game’s camera to complete a truly interactive streaming experience. Dynamic cameras, direct input that affects the game state, and clickable interactive video interfaces bring the in-engine spectator experience to livestream feeds.
Navok, who started the company in March, said Genvid can make any multiplayer game more compelling to watch on popular livestream services like Twitch. The company’s name is a fusion of two Latin root words, Gen meaning “birth” and Vid meaning “viewing.” This reflects the company’s mission to power a new era of interactive streaming experiences.
Genvid offers three technologies in one suite (Broadcast, Engage, Analyze). It’s using its team’s experience with server-side gaming to the limitations of current livestreams. Genvid’s Broadcast technology allows for the creation of dynamic camera angles, composed professionally in real time. Engage allows for real-time and tactile input, customizable for each viewer. Analyze tracks the pulse of the viewing audience and ensures the highest level of crowd satisfaction. The latter means it fixes the camera on the angle that viewers like the most, such on a star player.
Developers could create instant replays based on viewer demand and quickly stitch them together in real time and show them to viewers. You could also track a player or get information by clicking on that individual in the stream. And the popularity of particular scenes could determine instant replays. A developer could figure this out by looking at what players are talking about within a chat window.
Navok said that if audiences are more engaged, the players and esports companies will be able to benefit from better advertising results, allowing the esports industry to resemble professional physical sports in terms of overall monetization through ads. Genvid hasn’t used either Square Enix or Shinra technology for its demo, and it hasn’t received any endorsement from either Twitch or Square Enix.
While Shinra was trying to build a superlow latency system with its cloud-streaming technology, Genvid’s system has more tolerance for latency.
“The interactive technology that Genvid has developed will completely change live streaming,” said March’s Gregory Milken, in a statement. “The Genvid team is uniquely positioned to help game developers given their years of experience working on the cutting edge of game streaming.”
Milken will join the board of directors with the closing of this round. Additionally, Genvid is announcing that Mike Vorhaus, president of Magid Advisors, is joining its advisory board alongside existing advisers Yoichi Wada, former CEO of Square Enix Holdings, and Jayson Chi, Senior Advisor at McKinsey.
“The game industry has been circling around this segment for years, but Genvid is the first company positioned to bring engagement to the massive market that is non-players of games,” commented Wada, in a statement.
Genvid will release its developer software development kit in late 2016.