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Ready Player Me, a cross-game metaverse avatar platform that allows users to explore virtual worlds with a cohesive identity, closed a $56 million funding round led by Andreessen Horowitz (a16z).
The New York-based company has had success with its cross-platform metaverse approach, advocating for the use of interoperable avatars. To date, Ready Player Me has partnerships with more than 3,000 game and app companies that use its avatars.
Notable investors include David Baszucki, co-founder of Roblox; Justin Kan, co-founder of Twitch; Sebastian Knutsson and Riccardo Zacconi, co-founders of King; sports and entertainment company Endeavour; Hartbeat Ventures D by Kevin Hart; Amelio family; Punk6529; snow; Currency of cooperation; Plural; Konvoy Ventures and more.
All 3,000 applications on Web2 and Web3 already integrate Ready Player Me, including VRChat, Spatial, Somnium Space, RTFKT and many more. The company is also already working with individual designers and fashion brands such as Adidas, New Balance, Dior, Pull & Bear and Warner Brothers (Dune movie outfits) to enable cross-game avatar assets in the metaverse.
Timmu Tõke, CEO of Ready Player Me, said in an interview with GamesBeat that interoperability will unlock the true metaverse experience between games, worlds and apps where users can have a consistent identity across all experiences.
“We’re doing cross-game reactions for the metaverse because we’ve seen people spend a lot of time in virtual worlds,” Tõke said. “The Metaverse is not an app, game or platform. It is a network of thousands of different virtual worlds. It therefore makes sense for users to have an avatar to traverse many different virtual worlds.
Tõke added: “And from a developer’s perspective, when you create a new game or a new world, you have to create it or create a system or a character. And building one takes from six months to a few years. And that’s a big pain for developers. And we take that pain away. We give them an avatar system. They integrate it in a few days or a week.
By focusing on tools for the developer side of the network, the company has made it easier for developers to create games, which in turn makes it easier for gamers to create their avatars, Tõke said. The company has 50 people and is looking for people.
Ready Player Me provides developers with an avatar system, allowing teams to focus on creating worlds and experiences. The platform also offers distribution through its network and opens up new revenue opportunities through the sale of interoperable avatar assets and an in-game economy.
“What will unlock the true metaverse experience is interoperability between games, worlds and apps and a consistent identity for users across all experiences,” said Tõke.
Tõke said it’s essential for users in the virtual world to create an avatar they like and buy avatar skins and accessories that work in the metaverse and aren’t stuck in a game.
He said the funding will enable Ready Player Me to continue developing the avatar system to make it more flexible for developers, create new tools to help developers monetize avatar assets, and create tools for individual users. creators to enter the cross-game avatar market. .
Ready Player Me is driven by the belief that an open metaverse with millions of interconnected experiences, rather than a few big walled gardens, will improve the user experience, the creator experience, and the economy. An interoperable user ID and avatar reside in the center of the open metaverse to provide a consistent experience. And an open market for avatar items will expand the market and allow metaverse developers to increase their revenue.
“Beloved by developers and gamers alike as the largest platform for avatar-as-a-service systems, Ready Player Me is well on its way to opening up the interoperable identity protocol to the metaverse,” said Jonathan Lai, General Partner. to Andreessen Horowitz, in a statement. “We were deeply impressed by the mix of empathy, technical skills and pragmatism of the developers on the team, and couldn’t be more excited to work with them on this journey.”
The learning curve
The Ready Player Me avatar system is the result of more than eight years of research and development. Since its inception, the company has created custom avatar systems and technologies for enterprise clients such as Tencent, Verizon, HTC, Wargaming, etc.
Over the years, Ready Player Me has built its own database of more than 20,000 facial scans captured with the company’s proprietary hardware 3D scanners. These analytics enabled Ready Player Me to create an in-depth learning solution capable of predicting and displaying realistic faces from a single 2D photo. This system works on desktop, web and mobile and is available to developers through a software development kit (SDK) and an application programming interface (API).
Tõke said he doesn’t believe the centralized metaverse, run by one or a handful of companies, will be good for developers and users. When that happens, the centralized companies will set the rules. At the same time, he wants to succeed in the market with his avatars. So he has to make sure that his avatar system is also open.
“Creating game services, protocols and standards is what we focus on,” said Tõke. “We’ve been developing this for nearly nine years now, from building hardware scanners to customizing or creating systems for large companies like Tencent. The first tipping point for us was to create a standardized open tech stack that anyone could use. from our launch we got good feedback from the developers and started growing organically.
Last year 24 companies used it, then it got out of hand. The opening was a tailwind for the company, Tõke said.
The company has started building facial scanner hardware with 100 cameras. He then created a photo booth where he captured thousands of people in airports and museums. with this database, he builds a deep learning solution that can take a single selfie and convert it into different avatar styles. Around 2016 and 2017, the company shut down hardware and focused on a complete software solution.
After that, he started creating solutions for various companies, from Wargaming to Huawei. This customization paid the bills, but it wasn’t scalable, so the company turned to a more universal approach, and it started taking off during the pandemic. The first users were companies that created virtual meeting rooms or worlds for metaverse applications.
The goal is to make avatars work like other shared file formats so that they can be used in Unity mobile games or Unreal desktop games.
“Industry needs to see the economic value of interoperability,” said Tõke. “Being able to sell their props and avatars traveling the world – it needs to be clear that it’s a better company and the industry needs to agree on standards. I don’t see that push from the industry today.
Tõke said that creating interoperability between platforms is a challenge these days, given the number of existing systems. Part of the challenge is making the avatars more and more realistic over time. Tõke said his company has joined the Metaverse Forum, which creates standards. Other companies like Nvidia also make avatars for their Omniverse platform.
By contrast, its rival Genies has raised a lot of money and had success creating avatars for celebrities, who were expected to continue hosting meet-and-greet events for fans during the pandemic. This activity has grown, but game companies have not taken it over.
“You have to build the diversity network as a development tools company,” said Tõke. “That’s where we spend most of our time.”
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