The rise of virtual reality and the modern arcade

At his desk piled with gaming hardware and VR headsets, Matthew Hall holds the position of CTO for SpringboardVR.

SpringboardVR is a fully remote company founded in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, giving us the latest in the virtual reality industry from around the world. The company is now based in LA.

Hall works from his home in Vancouver, BC, Canada.

 

Growing up as a huge gamer himself with dreams of being a game developer, Matthew eventually found his passion in web application development.

 

Growing up as a huge gamer himself with dreams of being a game developer, Matthew eventually found his passion in web application development.

“It’s great to be able to try out the new stuff. I get to see things I’d never have been able to see,” he said.

Hall came to SpringboardVR after taking too much abuse from the parents of 12 year-old Minecraft players while running a server hosting company for the game, a company which he sold a few years before starting with SpringboardVR. His job now involves keeping up to date with VR, managing, recruiting, growing out SpringboardVR’s expanding development team, and scoping out new features and products.

 

Small team, big reach

The SpringboardVR team consists of 25-30 people, with development and design making up about one-quarter. The developers span across Canada, the US, Germany, and the UK. Two of the founders remain in the founding city, Oklahoma City, with one in California.

Initially, the founders started their own VR arcade in Oklahoma City. When they realized there’s no software to manage such an operation, they built an MVP (minimum viable product) of the software and realized the potential their business could have. The issue surrounded the guys’ inability to accurately charge for time spent using a particular VR system, as you would with traditional coin-operated arcade equipment.

 

When they realized there’s no software to manage such an operation, they built an MVP (minimum viable product) of the software and realized the potential their business could have.

 

Then, they shut down their arcade to focus entirely on the software itself. That’s when SpringboardVR was born.

The individual tasks of SpringboardVR’s management software are complicated. They balance a web platform, a big background API that does all the heavy lifting, and a desktop application.

“It’s a multi-part app,” Matt offhandedly noted.

SpringboardVR works with hundreds of game developers from all over the world, creating VR gaming content and constantly updating the software.

 

VR – The future of gaming

The future of VR management is in hands-off-operation.

Traditionally, people would go into a location-based VR center, and workers would have a stopwatch keeping track of time spent playing any particular game. It was a messy approach. There wasn’t much control in terms of keeping customers on track.

“ We help lock things down. It’s a much easier approach for people who are new to VR. We try to make that process much smoother for them.”

Remember walking down mainstreet, walking into the arcade, paying for only what you play? Me neither. Instead, you’d pay between $50-$60 for a new PS4 game, play it once and hate it.

SpringboardVR works to benefit the customers, developers, and operators they work with. Instead of charging a chunk of money, the costs are based on use. This increases value and allows for flexibility to test out different games.

“We charge for time, which we’ve found to be the most sustainable for both the location operators and the game developers. You spend 6 cents a minute, and can try more content instead of paying a bunch of money to buy and play new stuff. This way, the game developers get a lot more value for their content, rather than just a one time fee. And location operators can try different content.”

 

“Powering Location-Based VR, Worldwide”

SpringboardVR allows users to run a whole arcade on their phone, tablet, desktop, or whatever fancy tech they’re using.

“We went with the fully cloud based approach. You install the VR software on your desktop and everything else can be managed from any device you have.”

There are few competitors in the space, but most of them require customers to have a computer that runs the software locally, which is a little more difficult to maintain. And much more expensive.

“The dream was all about home VR. But as it’s evolved, it turns out that takes up a lot of space and the hardware is very expensive. Except for those very hardcore people, it’s not really feasible.”

 

While SpringboardVR is also pushing forward with the many players and developments of the industry, it faces its share of challenges.

 

“For those without the space, and those who can’t afford a $1500 software, home based VR is impractical. No one’s really using that.”

The arcade space in general is shifting to VR. “We’re seeing a lot of hybrids in things like laser tag, trampoline parks, and traditional arcades. It definitely hasn’t found its perfect niche, but it’s growing and evolving. Some people see it as their primary focus, and others see it as an addition.”

While SpringboardVR is also pushing forward with the many players and developments of the industry, it faces its share of challenges.

 

Friction and nausea

The challenges SpringboardVR faces from the VR industry are all over the place, including all the “normal challenges” of a startup.

“Each customer does things differently and has a unique business model. Making software that fits individual needs is very difficult. Trying to build things that are reusable across all spaces has been an interesting challenge in the development space. VR is so new.”

The industry is working towards an actual specification that will be shared called OpenXR. “We’re looking forward to this standard to make our lives a little easier.”

“Right now, interacting with every single VR headset is challenging.” All software is unique. Each company has its own software development kits, all custom. Everyone’s different. “This project, led by the Khronos group, is working hard to make sure everyone on the software side can write one kind of code that works for all the different headsets.”

In terms of the desktop side, things are rapidly evolving and constantly changing. “Updates are pushed out for the headsets all the time. Things get broken. The team has to constantly adapt.”

“On the content side, we’re pushing out software. It’s pretty easy to handle. In terms of hardware, it’s a little more complicated. Everyone’s pushing out new versions. Microsoft just got into the space about a year ago and we have a good relationship with them with their Windows Mixed Reality headsets. We’re maintaining those relationships, and working with people as they grow this different kind of hardware.”

For customers using the product, nausea has been a huge challenge, as it has always been for virtual reality. Hall himself has experienced nausea after using VR, despite his veteran gaming status. “It’s getting better as things get higher quality. It might be something that never gets resolved.”

Imagine constantly switching between virtual reality and real life? Wouldn’t you hurl?

Despite the developments of virtual reality, reality has a way of pulling you back. With their business spanning across the globe, dealing with various languages, currencies, and positions, and smaller and harder to access countries, SpringboardVR faced challenges with payments.

Luckily, Hall discovered a payments processor that could go the distance.

 

“The right people”

Hall discovered Veem while reading a TechCrunch article.

“It was perfect timing. It was during the week when I was looking for the right people to handle our payouts. We had a list of countries we needed and Veem was the only company that had an API coming and supported all those countries.”

SpringboardVR uses Veem to send payments to their international game developers.

“We do our own content licensing. Game developers can license the game through these location based entertainment centers and then charge them on a permanent basis for their games. We bill our location operators every month and then use Veem to send payments to all of our developers.”

With their various partners in different fields, and as it is a growing industry, not everyone is always on the same page.

“There are so many indie studios or one-man-shows, and they’re in every country. Some countries we’ve never even heard of before are making VR content. Veem can help us leverage that to handle our payments so we don’t have to worry about how to get money to a different country, which is very good for us.”

 

Veem’s automation helps SpringboardVR save money directly on fees. “Veem saves us from bank fees and saves us time. The Veem form makes perfect sense. I have no complaints.

 

SpringboardVR was one of Veem’s first API partners. “The API was probably the biggest selling point for us. We have hundreds of game developers, new ones coming on every week. Doing the payroll and sending the payments individually would have been a giant headache and would have taken so many man hours. The API saves us so much money every week. It’s so much faster than doing it at a traditional bank, by hand.”

Veem’s automation helps SpringboardVR save money directly on fees. “Veem saves us from bank fees and saves us time. The Veem form makes perfect sense. I have no complaints.”

“We didn’t use the payment tracker at first, assuming that everyone wants to be paid. But now we use it for tracking statuses, resending payments, regrouping invoices in case they don’t accept the prior month’s invoices.”

Hall says SpringboardVR is looking to further integrate Veem into their onboarding process, so they can make sure developers get paid as soon as they get their titles added.

The future of VR is strong. With expansion comes innovation, and partnerships like these are only pushing the envelope even further. Whether it’s VR technology, or APIs.

For more information about SpringboardVR, check out their website here.