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MGM-Backed Survios Names Seth Gerson CEO, Founding CEO Nathan Burba Becomes President (EXCLUSIVE)

MGM-backed virtual reality (VR) startup Survios has elevated its chief business officer Seth Gerson to the CEO role, with founding CEO Nathan Burba staying on as President. The changes were announced internally Friday, and are part of the company’s strategy to double down on VR arcades.

“As we are looking to expand into location-based entertainment, Seth is uniquely positioned for that,” Burba said in an interview with Variety Thursday.

Survios is best known for its VR shooter “Raw Data,” and recently began shipping the VR racing game “Sprint Vector.” The company has also announced a VR music creation app called “Electronauts” as well as the VR boxing game “Creed: Rise to Glory,” which it has produced in cooperation with MGM. Both titles are scheduled to ship this year.

However, unlike other VR startups, Survios hasn’t just been focused on selling titles to early adopters who already have a VR headset at home. Instead, the company early on embraced arcades as a way to reach a potentially much bigger audience. “Our first check came from a VR arcade,” said Gerson.

Survios has partnered with VR arcade operators in 36 countries all around the world, distributing its own titles as well as those from partners like Sony Pictures. And earlier this year, the company opened up its own arcade in Torrance, Calif. as a testing ground for its location-based ambitions.

That arcade has been really well received, said Burba. “We have lines out of the door.” Part of Survios’ secret sauce for its arcade is the company’s own VR pod, called the Tesseract, built to encourage bystanders to watch. “VR should be as much fun to watch as it is to play,” said Gerson.

Going forward, Survios has plans to open additional owned-and-operated arcades, but also wants to work with other arcade operators to improve their experience — an effort that Gerson compared to Google producing its own phones as a way to steer other Android handset makers in the right direction. “We are creating inspirational flagships,” he said.

Gerson didn’t want to give any estimates on how many of its own Arcades Survios plans to open, but sad that he’d ultimately like to see venues like these become as popular as Yoga studios.

As for Survios, the company will continue to make its own games and experiences both for home-based VR as well as arcades, Gerson said. “You have to have both to have sustainable success,” he said. In addition to “Electronauts” and “Creed: Rise to Glory,” Survios plans to release two additional, still-unannounced titles over the next 12 months.

The company has raised more than $54 million from funders including Shasta Ventures, Lux Capital and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios, and struck partnership deals with AT&T, Intel, IMAX, Sony and Nvidia among others.

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