Games firm raises sights on VR

WarDucks, the firm behind the ‘Sneaky Bears’ game, plans to conquer virtual reality, writes Trish Dromey.

Sneaky Bears’ bid to take over the virtual world with an army of evil teddy bears has now been boosted by an investment of €1.3m.

That is the aim of the Dublin-based start-up which created the virtual reality game.

Virtual reality (VR) game developer WarDucks, will now use the funding from the seed round led by Suir Valley Ventures to publicise Sneaky Bears, grow its team and develop new titles.

Targeting the rapidly expanding
global virtual reality market which is expected to be worth €29bn by 2022, WarDucks was set up by chief executive Nikki Lannen in 2013.

The first version of Sneaky Bears launched on the Samsung mobile Gear VR platform and reached No 24 on the Top Selling Gear VR Charts (for mobile VR) last year.

Its sequel Sneaky Bears RollerCoaster achieved a No 2 ranking in the same charts.

This month, WarDucks has launched an expanded version of Sneaky Bears, a full-length VR game for the larger console and PC market and has now made this available on PlayStation VR,
Oculus Rift and HTC Vive headsets — the big three which dominate the VR console and desktop market.

Ms Lannen worked on the Facebook games team for almost five years before deciding to go out on her own.

While the typical start-out sets out to make a product which will sell, she says the approach required in the games world is different.

“We set out to make a fun and engaging game that people would enjoy,” she says.

Using her own funding, she set up WarDucks at William Street in Dublin city centre, hiring three developers to produce the company’s first game for Facebook and mobile gaming. The game, Global Agents, involves finding hidden objects. It has recorded over 500,000 downloads.

Deciding that the mobile games space was very crowded and that there would be better opportunities in the rapidly expanding virtual reality market, Ms Lannen changed direction.

“Switching to virtual reality meant taking on much larger project — a much more immersive one with more elements. We bootstrapped at the
beginning and then raised small amounts of private investment and were supported by Enterprise Ireland which identified the company as a High Potential Start-up in 2014,” she says.

It was at this point that Ms Lannen and her expanding team of software developers, artists and animators came up with Sneaky Bears for the mobile VR market, a shooting-gallery game that involves a fiendish teddy with plans for world domination and his army of minions.

“Because it’s fun to play and to watch we have had a lot of reviews from YouTubers’’ says Ms Lannen. She is now using every available means to spread the word about Sneaky Bears.

The funding which comes from Suir Valley Ventures, other private investors and Enterprise Ireland, has been used to increase staff to nine.

It has also been used to develop the console-PC version of Sneaky Bears which Ms Lannen says has been selling well since its launch in early September.

The development team is now working on localising the Sneaky Bear game for China and Japan, and on developing new titles.

WarDucks expects to be ready to release a new “fun game” for the virtual reality console market by next February.

Moving into developing games for the more sophisticated console and PC market has, according to Ms Lannen, allowed the company more scope to create full-length games with higher quality content.

“Our focus now will be on creating more titles for virtual reality and augmented reality platforms,’’ she says, adding that the company hopes to employ an additional four or five people over the next 12 months.

WarDucks is positioning itself to be ready for huge growth in the virtual reality industry which is likely to take place when the price of virtual reality headsets come down.

That is predicted to happen within a few years.

“When the prices come down that will give us the opportunity to scale,’’ says Ms Lannen who aims to establish WarDucks as leading developer with multiple titles in the virtual reality market.



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