Virtual reality live-streaming startup Vreal raises $11.7M

In the online gaming world, virtual reality has already been used by some of the top streamers to engage with their audiences, but there’s not much return for what the personalities have to give up. They have a bulky headset obscuring their faces and viewers aren’t getting anything more than the 2D representation of what the streamer is seeing.

Vreal is aiming to get more out of VR streams by giving viewers a world within the game just for them.

What makes Vreal unique is that it’s wholly committed to virtual reality gameplay rather than converting existing 2D content into a 3D environment. What does it mean to design for VR from the ground up? Well, it means finding a vantage point for every viewer to explore a shared world by fully re-rendering the game itself.

By dropping a viewer’s game avatar into a VR world that they can navigate, a level of agency and connection is possible that really adds a lot to the perceived relationship between streamers and their audiences. Someone using Vreal can stand beside a personality they enjoy or admire or get a bird’s eye view of what’s going on while chatting with other onlookers. As opposed to watching a static 2D screen, it’s clear there’s a lot of potential for interaction, but only if virtual reality devices continue to catch on.

Vreal is admittedly a product for a pretty tight niche: streamers with VR hardware broadcasting for viewers with VR hardware. “We think it’s going to be a whole new segment of the gaming industry,” VReal CEO Todd Hooper told TechCrunch. “It’s still pretty small today but it will have its blockbuster titles.”

Vreal announced today that it has raised $11.7 million in Series A funding led by Axioma Ventures. Intel Capital and the AET Fund also participated. The team has raised around $15 million to date according to Crunchbase. The team is adding Chet Faliszek and Chris M. Williams to its board of directors.

A lot of focus from the team is currently placed on making Vreal a pleasant experience for streamers who are putting in a lot of effort to adopt VR in the first place. For some, it’s a new niche to conquer, while others see it as the ultimate way to connect with viewers. The team is working on tools to make it easier to export these experiences to more traditional services so streamers aren’t left doing double the work.

The pre-alpha service is only available to users running a Vive or Rift at the moment but the team hopes to add mobile so that they can approach users on the more platforms as they look to launch more widely.