Hong Kong-based virtual reality (VR) startup Sandbox VR has raised a $68 million Series A round of funding from Andreesen Horowitz, Floodgate Ventures, Stanford University, Triplepoint Capital, CRCM and Alibaba. The company wants to use the new cash infusion to launch new VR centers in New York, Tokyo and elsewhere.
Sandbox currently operates VR centers in 6 cities, including San Mateo, Calif., Vancouver and Hong Kong. In those locations, it offers players the opportunity to freely explore a stage, and play together to fight zombies, aliens and undead pirates in a series of location-based VR experiences.
“We believe this new medium is not about better movies or a more immersive game,” the company wrote in a blog post Monday. “It’s something else entirely, and we as an industry will need to learn from the best of both mediums — movies and gaming.”
These remarks were echoed by Andreesen Horowitz:
“Once the ecosystem around Sandbox begins to achieve critical mass, we expect that the technology will unlock a golden era of storytelling and interactive, immersive entertainment,” said the venture capital firm’s general partner Andrew Chen in a blog post Monday. “Some of this will look like gaming, some will look like film, and yet others will resemble music, documentaries — as well as other new, VR-native genres we’ve yet to invent, in much the same way people eventually moved beyond trying to redo plays in early movies. ”
Sanbox VR is one of a number of startups looking to create ticketed VR experiences in malls and movie theaters. Others include The Void, which has struck partnerships with Disney and others for high-profile franchise content, Dreamscape and Nomadic.
Early anecdotal evidence suggests high demand for some of these experiences, but not every attempt at location-based VR is faring well: Imax, which had big plans for its own VR centers, announced in December that it was exiting the market. The company’s flagship Los Angeles location, which also hosted a Sandbox VR experience, closed in recent weeks.