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Onlife, the company that created the “sneakerverse” game Aglet, has raised a new round of funding for its platform that combines virtual worlds and physical goods.
Galaxy Interactive and Amazon’s Alexa fund led the round for Onlife, whose game lets people buy virtual sneakers or gets them to go walking in order to earn points to earn the virtual sneakers. It’s aimed at “sneakerheads,” or sneaker fans who often have trouble getting fashionable shoes at “sneaker drop” events, said Ryan Mullins, CEO of Onlife, in an interview with GamesBeat.
Aglet is one more example of the coming metaverse, the universe of virtual worlds that are all interconnected, like in novels such as Snow Crash and Ready Player One. Over the past couple of years, the audience has grown to 150,000 active players.
“My cofounder and I set out to imagine what the world would look like in 20 years, and we reverse engineered back to the present to build some experiments and products that imagine that future,” Mullins said. “And that vision for us is the future of the Internet is a spatial movement from pages to places from 2D to 3D, from feeds that you read to a kind of freedom to roam in places. And we call that vision Onlife. I don’t live online or offline anymore. We live Onlife. It’s the convergence of the digital and physical realms. That’s why we started the company.”
Aglet previously raised $4.5 million in December 2020. And while it didn’t disclose the size of the round today, the company said it has raised $24 million to date. Other participants in today’s round include JDS Crypto and Goal Ventures.
The funding is being used to support and expand the company’s first game, Aglet, a location-based gamified commerce experience in which sneaker aficionados can collect virtual and real sneakers in-game by traversing cities around the globe. Mullins sees this as the convergence of two dimensions, the physical and digital.
“Some call this the metaverse, but it’s less about being in virtual worlds and more about being able to create experiences within that convergence space. That’s really what we’re all about,” Mullins said.
The company’s ultimate mission is to power a more creative and playful world by harmonizing online and physical lives. This creates a metaverse experience that augments the average user’s daily life through the concept of play on a map of the world. Aglet allows users to explore, collect, and create, while also empowering them to build, trade, and grow together.
“Aglet’s Co-founder, Ryan Mullins, is blazing new trails at the intersection of games and ecommerce,” said Sam Englebardt, managing partner at Galaxy Interactive, in a statement. “His ability to demonstrate the next wave of consumer and brand integration within the rabid sneaker community is only the beginning of what he’ll develop by converging real life with virtual worlds.”
Other investors in Onlife’s history include Lakestar Ventures, Sapphire Sport, and Forecast Ventures. The company currently has 25 employees and with this round of financing, will start hiring more people in the game design and development sectors.
“The metaverse provides unique consumer experiences with a real or virtual brand, and that is particularly attractive to us,” said Michael Spirito, managing partner of Sapphire Sport, in a statement. “By combining virtual, social and physical gameplay, Aglet is positioned to assume a leadership position in this rapidly growing metaverse world.”
Aglet will move beyond collecting as it gets ready to unveil its nonfungible token (NFT) collection in the near future. Players will be able to collect their NFT sneakers and flip them to others, hopefully for a profit, Mullins said.
Mullins cofounded Onlife with Owen Batt, chief technology officer. During the past two years since the launch of Aglet, the company has added progression systems, avatars, and it has expanded beyond sneakers to other apparel.
It is also doing design contests where up-and-coming designers in the community have a chance to design new brands on the platform.
One of the key discoveries the team made was the enthusiasm that people have for some kind of fitness activity that is woven into the game, Mullins said.
“It turns out that a lot of people feel like it’s a game to walk around the city and explore the culture you live in,” he said.
On top of that, you can earn digital currency and use it to buy digital sneakers as a kind of replacement for those sneakers you can’t get in real life, Mullins said.
“What we underestimated was the habit that some of the players would pick up,” Mullins said. “We have an incredible number of testimonials that have been shared with us around people who send before and after pictures, losing weight, talking about how they’re connecting other players with challenges and competition.”
Mullins understands people will laugh about the sneakerverse and that everybody is calling their new app a metaverse. But he noted how much miscommunication happened in the dotcom craze of the 1990s before the shakeout happened from the overhype and eventually real companies grew huge. He said there is overhype, but the metaverse will be bigger in the next five years as a result of all of the efforts.
He also doesn’t think the game industry’s virtual worlds should have a monopoly on the definition of the metaverse, as it represents “a much bigger opportunity than everyone is saying and it isn’t just limited to virtual worlds.”
He added, “The metaverse is a theory of everything. It’s how the physical and the digital connect together.”
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