Virtual reality gaming has always been a bit isolating. Players stay at home with a headset on, fully immersed in the home with only the plant to potentially knock over. But now, a new company called Ready Team One promises to make VR gaming social, as well as fully immersive.
An Australian company founded by three gamers that offers a metaverse-like experience is on the rise, and fast. Is this the metaverse experience that we are all waiting for?
Chris Cheng, Scott Whiteley and James Tang got together in 2017 to make an immersive game using full-body virtual reality. But this isn’t crammed in your home, where you are likely to run into a door or swipe the cat across the face by accident. This happens in large venues where up to 12 people can play together.
The company started small, with the three founders funding it privately, and they have grown the company from there. Funding it themselves, they said, “put a bit of skin in the game, which helps motivation.”
Ready Team One
None of the founders came from a software background. Tang is a mechanical engineer, Cheng is an aerospace engineer, and Whitely has a business background.
In 2018 with the VR system ready to experiment with, and a temporary location available to use in it in, the guys were up and running with their business called “Ready Team One.” This is a play on the 2011 science fiction work Ready Player One by Ernest Cline.
Ready Player One takes place in a dystopian future where the world’s population spends their time in a virtual reality world called the OASIS. And that’s just what happens in Ready Team One, where groups of people can spend time together in a fully immersive experience.
Here is what it looks like.
James Tang from Ready Team One told The Chainsaw that the three founders of the company all grew up gaming: “We basically started prototyping, building our entertainment system. We liked the traditional VR experiences at home, but you are confined to a small room. What we wanted to do was expand our play space into a large free-roaming type of arena. This way, players could walk around, and be part of a very social experience. What we’ve developed is something that allows up to 12 players into the same experience, so you’re going on an adventure or mission with your friends.”
Virtual reality gaming pop-ups
The company started out initially as a pop-up business. Says Tang, “Once we developed our games and the VR system we were popping up all around Perth in random basketball courts and centres. And then once we started getting traction, lots of customers just started purchasing tickets to come and try out the experience. That’s when we we realised we were on something, so we opened our own Ready Team One arena in the Perth CBD.”
The first centre kicked off during 2020 in the thick of COVID-19. Says Tang, “It probably wasn’t the best time to start a business like ours, but but we were still able to get more than 11,000 people through the experience. And based on the feedback players provided to us, we developed more games and experiences from there.”
So far, the main centre is in the Perth CBD. However, the company has started licensing the model to external partners. Now there are several new sites, and there’s even a Ready Team One experience in Italy. “We’ve signed the latest deal for a venue in Townsville, Queensland, so that they’re going to be up and running in a few months time as well.”
Last night, the company finished a crowdfunding campaign to fuel their growth. Says Tang, “Our plan is to be able to license our products all across Australia, and also internationally. We’ve proven that the international model works. We set them up completely remotely and didn’t have to step on a plane.”
Ready Team One does face stuff competition in the form of Zero Latency, who are already up and running. Says Tang, “They’re an awesome company, they are the pioneers in free-roam VR. The main difference is that we’ve incorporated full body tracking technology: Trackers on your wrists, ankles, and torso, and we have a controller which detects motion in your fingers and hands. Our customers can high five each other, pull levers, and pick things up. Our game design is really interactive and a teamwork-based experience. Players can do puzzles, and problem solving.”
Ready Team One do of course have the zombie-shooting type games, which Tang says are the most popular.
Another interesting part of the experience is that you can set up an avatar before you arrive, and once you start the game, your entire body will sync up to your avatar.
Are they profitable?
Tang says that they are already profitable, and the drive to raise capital is purely for expansion. “We develop our own games, so the fundraising is to support games development and to grow through selling the model to licensees. Ideally, we want to get into more locations around Australia. We are talking to 30 prospective licensees. The beauty of virtual crowd funding is that our pitch got in front of thousands of people. So far, we’ve exceeded our minimum target of $300,000, we actually raised $530,000.”
Games cost around $73 per player per game, for an hour session, which is 40 minutes of gameplay and the other time spent suiting up and suiting down.
The founders also plan to improve the tech as they go along. “We will eventually get rid of the backpacks, lighten the sensors and things like that. There is definitely is a lot of potential on the horizon.”