There are niche startups and then there are VR companies going after fans of the “cyberpunk fantasy anime aesthetic.”
Ramen VR is one of only a few virtual reality startups that Y Combinator has bet on in the past few years and is only one of two in the company’s most recent batch of bets. It has a niche approach, but it’s hoping to build an MMO that can leanly grow alongside the slow-but-steady virtual reality market. Like any content play that’s hoping for VC dollars, Ramen VR wants eventually to be a platform.
“Long-term, our goal isn’t just to create a game, but we’ve seen the issues of VR platforms that tried to be platforms before they had a meaningful use case. If you’re just trying to be a chat room or platform without any users, that doesn’t work,” CEO Andy Tsen tells TechCrunch.
The company’s first title is called Zenith, and it’s an anime-inspired fantasy title that plays with cyberpunk themes as well. The founders are really aiming to give VR geeks the game that they want, one that taps into the 80s futuristic aesthetic with gameplay that pays tribute to popular sci-fi books, movies and games of the era.
MMOs are attracting quite a bit of inbound interest in the venture-backed startup world. Part of the reasoning has been because of people seeing the scope a title like Fortnite was able to achieve so quickly after going virall; the other part is the prevalence of developer tools that gaming startups are able to easily plug into their tech stacks. Ramen VR is using Improbable’s SpatialOS to bring persistent online gameplay to its users.
The company just rolled out a Kickstarter to gauge interest for Zenith; they launched a week ago and have raised $132,000 in the crowdfunding campaign thus far. Backers get access to a VR version of the title as well as a desktop PC copy. The startup plans to roll out across VR devices, including PC systems, PlayStation VR and Oculus Quest.
“The whole point is that it’s not just on one device, it’s a world, it’s literally the Upside Down from Stranger Things layered on top of your entire world. At any point, no matter what screen you’re on, you can access that,” CTO Lauren Frazier tells us.
The startup still has a bit of development ahead of them, but the current plan is to launch an Alpha in six months, a beta in nine months and to go live broadly a year from now.