$15m Atari Founders Twitch Kevin Lin (Today’s Update)

The fact that since the time pandemic has emerged, our two biggest pastimes have become gaming and streamed video.

And today, PortalOne, a hybrid gaming startup that has developed an application that offers those two entertainment formats together is revealing a significant seed round of funding since it is preparing to come out of closed beta.

PortalOne has announced a $15 million seed round of funding since it is preparing for coming out of closed beta with an application that enables people to play on-demand games, as well as watch, live shows in which users are able to play against a special guest.

Who Is Investing?

The startup and its funding are remarkable partially because of who is investing.

It consists of Atari and camera maker ARRI, Founders Fund, TQ Ventures, Rogue Capital Partners (Alice Lloyd George’s new fund), Coatue Management (particularly Arielle Zuckerberg), Seedcamp, Signia Venture Partners (via Sunny Dhillon), Talis Capital, and SNÖ Ventures out of Europe.

There are also several other investors as well that consisted of Kevin Lin, the co-founder of Twitch; Marc Merrill, co-founder of Riot Games; Amy Morhaime, co-founder of Dreamhaven; Mike Morhaime, co-founder of Blizzard and Dreamhaven; Eugene Wei, then-head of Video at Oculus and head of Product at Hulu; Xen Lategan, then CTO and executive advisor at many companies including Hulu.

PortalOne is partly a tech startup and partly a media company. The company has spent the last three years developing a full stack of hardware and software that can be utilized to develop games, record live shows, and incorporate the two into an experience that combines both on-demand and real-time gaming and entertainment.

The co-founder and CEO Bård Anders Kasin said “One of the benefits of building first is that what we are doing is extremely hard to do on a technical level,” adding “The way we do it is the key. It is our secret sauce.”

On the flip hand, it utilizes tech to develop a gaming and live events platform and brand; offering a place for itself as well as third parties for developing games and bigger live experiences near them. The company considers that it has done something which has eluded others for years.

Stig Olav Kasin, Bård’s brother and the other co-founder, said “We come from the entertainment industry and have also been in games many years,” adding “We’ve talked to all the big companies and know that hybrid gaming combining games and TV is difficult,” not least due to the silos in companies where several groups “own” TV and gaming.

So far, the company has been running a pared-down, early version of its service in the United States and Norway; two games named Blockbuster that, engages you with a huge ball and knocking over blocks, and the other one, an upgraded edition of Centipede; with parallel talk shows embark with a living room that is all computer-generated on a green screen.

All this can be played and watched by users using a VR headset or a phone, and they win “prizes” for performing well in gaming competitions. Besides that, the company will sell virtual goods.

The plan is to release the first renewal of its service in a broader manner— PortalOne Arcade, a selection of 80s-themed, old-school arcade games renewed as multiplayer, mesmerizing experiences blended with interactive talk shows in the U.S. and Norway next year prior to expanding to other markets.

Bård Anders Kasin who had founded a VR company previously and served as a technical director at Warner Brothers, producing films like “The Matrix” trilogy; and Stig Olav Kasin, who teamed up with his brother on VR and in 2018, established PortalOne.

When PortalOne released its closed beta, its priority was on developing its technology and its content ideas, and initial partners.

It wasn’t an easy task. Its tech stack integrates virtual reality, gaming technology, and computer vision, software, and hardware to record and stream video that remarkably decreases the required resources for both, among other IPs. 

One of the difficulties that the company has been dealing with has been developing the content for a hybrid platform like the one it imagined.

Generally, capturing mesmerizing experiences is complicated as well as expensive due to the use of volumetric devices, the studios set up required to record the experiences, and others that engage Hollywood movie studio size, staffing, and costs.

The breakthrough of the company has been to convert that process into something that is able to create more easily and definitely at a lower cost relatively, essential “since we have daily shows and we want to scale and mass produce more daily shows for each game,” stated Bård.

In the PortalOne setup, besides the host; a pleasant Norwegian with a majorly American English accent named Markus Bailey, and his guest, just two other people are engaged there, technician-producers prompting effects and controlling when the action changes from talking to the game and return again.

Bård said, from requiring large sets and a lot of people initially, “now we can do all of this in a YouTube-sized studio”.

Further, it stated, PortalOne is developing its own games when it comes to the content, but it is also hopping into an old-school gaming aesthetic as well.

In a statement, Kirill Tasilov, a principal at Talis Capital, said “Massive opportunities continue to emerge in the interactive entertainment space as distribution and business models evolve,” adding “PortalOne is redefining mobile by unlocking new hybrid experiences at the intersection of games and video, and we are thrilled to be a part of their journey.”

$15m Atari Founders Twitch Kevin Lin
Kevin Lin

Blurring the Lines

What PortalOne is doing isn’t completely a new concept in some ways as the border between what is a game, what is interactive, and what is linear entertainment has been becoming fuzzy for years.

In fact, you could say that game shows, one of the earliest TV formats, were an initial stage in hybrid interactivity, though more modern programs such as the ones that Stig aided to develop, with interactive voting from at-home audiences with the help of phones, of course, encouraged the strategy in new manners.

COVID-19 pandemic and the truth that a lot of many in-person live events were terminated, in the meantime, no doubt made the way for content players to consider beyond the box about building new forms of “live” shows.

With Marshmello receiving an overwhelming response to his Fortnite “show” back in 2019, the game had 12 million people flock to its Travis Scott concert earlier this year; later in December, Roblox stated that its show with Lil Nas will make the way for upcoming events.

Dhillon, a partner at Signia Venture Partners, said “When we see virtual concerts inside of TikTok, Roblox, and Fortnite, it’s great but PortalOne offers an evolution of interactive metaverse entertainment — true real-time, one-to-many interaction between gamers around the world, all in a mobile-native hybrid game format.”

Yet if well-established platforms really pick up on this trend, that’s an endorsement of what PortalOne has built. But they could also feasibly build their own live game shows, too, and blow PortalOne out of the water just as it’s dipping its toes in.

This is also where its time spent building tech could prove either to be a boost or a bust. Gaming is a notoriously tough one to call when it comes to resonating and taking off with audiences, and so too will presumably the experiences that are built around those games.

Kevin Lin said, “The next big social platform will likely be a convergence of media with gaming at its core — a truly new immersive interactive experience — and PortalOne is a major contender for becoming such a platform.”

Actually, if PortalOne gets an audience for what it is creating, it will have the resources that will help them to serve its audience more effectively and at the lowest cost. However, if it does not become able to strike the right note, the matter will be how and if that tech will be utilized otherwise.

Currently, for Investors, It Is More About the Opportunity

Braun said “As PortalOne continues to grow, it is seamlessly integrating the gaming and entertainment worlds to create a single interactive experience and endless opportunities for content creation,” adding “Creators and performers alike want new and innovative ways to bring their craft to life, and PortalOne is meeting that demand in a way that no other business has done.

I’m excited to work with the entire team to realize their trailblazing vision. I have never seen anything like this before.”

Further, in a statement, Delian Asparouhov, a principal at Founders Fund, said “We back companies that we believe have strong potential to become global category leaders,” adding “PortalOne creates a new category and simultaneously the platform that is clearly set to dominate that new category.

The market is ripe, the opportunity is clear, and the potential is unlimited. PortalOne is poised to create a before and after in the industry.”

We will keep you updated with all the latest information until then stay tuned to our website.

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