Multi-billion dollar Chinese game company Hero Entertainment, the developer behind China’s most popular mobile game, Crisis Action, has entered a partnership with Virtuix, creator of the Omni motion platform. As part of the deal, Hero has made a $500,000 strategic investment in Virtuix’s Series A round.

Hero is bringing Crisis Action to virtual reality using the Omni. The plan is to turn the VR version of the game into a VR eSport in China featuring the Omni later this year. Hero also owns the largest mobile eSports league in China, the Hero Pro League. Additionally, the partnership will distribute the $700 Omni throughout China’s growing network of VR cafes and entertainment centers beginning this year.

Jan Goetgeluk, Virtuix’s founder and CEO, talks to [a]listdaily about the future of virtual reality eSports in China and around the globe.

Jan Goetgeluk,
Jan Goetgeluk, Virtuix founder and CEO

How did this partnership come about?

We’ve had a Virtuix China office with 12 people working full-time under David Allen, the president of our company. We’ve been courted for a long time by various Chinese companies that want to team up with us, or distribute Omni at arcades or in eSports settings. We’ve held off until now because it’s such a big market and we really need to be ready.

Hero is, culturally, an excellent fit. They’re a young, dynamic company that we believe is the next big game company in China. They’re already publicly traded. We had talked about creating a joint venture, and things continued to evolve in good spirit, and now we’re announcing the deal.

What role will eSports play in this joint venture?

We think the Omni is a great fit for VR eSports globally. There’s a lot of appetite for that, and eSports is growing in the US and is already huge in Asia. Hero owns the Hero Pro League, which is the largest mobile eSports league in China. Thousands of people come together to watch eSports competitions. And we believe there’s an opportunity for Virtuix Omni for VR eSports.

What is Crisis Action, and how is it being turned into a VR game?

Crisis Action is Hero’s main game. It’s the most successful mobile first-person shooter game. They’ll convert it to VR to be played with Omni, and the VR game will also be used as an eSports game.

What is the launch timing for the VR version of the game?

Later this year. They’re already working on it. The eSports side will start in China with the Hero Pro League. Then we’ll see if we can expand that and replicate that in other markets.

Crisis Action will be launched in the US so it will be localized. We won’t stop anyone from playing the game without the Omni, but the reality is it’s hard to play a first-person shooter in VR without a motion platform because of motion sickness. That’s why Omni is a great fit for Crisis Action.

What VR platforms are you targeting?

We’ll focus on the HTC Vive. That’s a matter of converting it using the SDK provided by HTC, and optimizing the game frame rate-wise for VR. Hero is the expert at making first-person shooters work in mobile with low processing power. Converting it to VR won’t be that hard for them.

How do you see this deal impacting sales of Omni in China?

We’ll launch later this year. ESports is a marketing vehicle for sales. People can see the VR eSports competitions and may be compelled to buy it for home.

Virtuix Omni
Virtuix Omni

Outside of the consumer market, what opportunities exist in Chinese arcades?

Part of the business model is the arcade rollout. There are over 400,000 internet cafes in China that are being retrofitted into VR Cafes. The Omni is a great fit for those locations. We have UNIS, which is one of China’s largest suppliers for entertainment centers, committed to deliver 5,000 to 10,000 Omnis to VR Cafes and Entertainment Centers. That out-of-home market is very big in China. We believe VR in China will become bigger and grow faster than anywhere else in the world.

How many games will Omni support?

Crisis Action and other games will be playable on it. The Omni acts like a game controller or keyboard, so any game recognizes that right out of the box. That’s the great advantage we have. Developers can use our SDK to optimize the movement in their games for the analog speed and other motion data. Crisis Action will be fully optimized.

We have a few internal demo games, including Omni Arena, an arena-style multiplayer shooter game similar to the game Hero already has developed. That’s available to all Omni customers, including commercial customers for VR arcades.

How many players will compete in Crisis Action eSports?

Crisis Action is a massive online first-person shooter with over 400 million players. Over 10 million people play every day in the multiplayer game. It’s the first mobile game I know of that’s FPS and massively multiplayer online. Hero has mastered this without latency issues. That’s the power of this joint venture, bringing low latency massively multiplayer online to mobile.

The number of players is only limited by the online server. They can do 5 versus 5 onstage, but they also have different game modes like Death Match, Team Based, and Capture the Flag.

Will there be a spectator mode in VR?

That’s a very exciting area that we’re exploring. At CES and GDC, we had two Omnis on stage and a third TV above the stage in spectator mode, where a live commentator moved through the arena as a spectator and covered the action live. It’s not ready yet, but we’re exploring that now.

I’m not sure when it’ll be ready, but it’s something that will be part of VR eSports in the future.

Will there be opportunities in the US for Omni at VR entertainment centers?

We’ll see if we can have similar applications in the US. This is our company’s first joint venture and it includes strategic investments. First and foremost, this deal will help our Series A funding. We’ve raised over $6 million to date, and investment interest will be high after this announcement.

How have you opened up your fundraising to the crowd?

Part of the $6 million we’ve raised to date through our Series A is through Regulation A, where the crowd, community and backers can invest in Virtuix. People can invest alongside Hero with the exact same terms. The everyday investor can invest as little as $1,000.

We want to raise seven to ten million with our Series A, which ends July 31st.