Tag: virtual reality

Oct 7 2015

The Long and Winding Road to Rock Band 4

It’s here. And you know you want it. You can buy just the Rock Band 4 software (if you have your old instruments) or, if you are like me and you’ve given your instruments away, you can buy a new full bundle of everything.

And, in case you missed it, Spark Capital joined us an investor last week with a few other long time friends in a $15 million round.

I originally invested in Harmonix as an angel investor in 1995. It’s rise was well chronicled in this awesome Inc. Magazine long form story titled Just PlayBasically, Harmonix tried to go out of business every year between 1995 and 2005 and just managed to fail at that, always coming up with a new revenue deal or a small amount of financing to stay alive before it became an overnight success in 2005 with the original launch of Guitar Hero.

MTV acquired the company in 2006 for $175m plus an earnout, which after a long “discussion” that ended in 2013, resulted in a total purchase price over $700m. MTV decided to get out of the video game business in 2010 and sold the company back to the founders (Alex and Eran) and a small investor group.

In 2013 Alex and Eran asked me to join their board. We arranged a financing that made sense for both parties so Foundry Group could invest. Harmonix is easily the most accomplished video game company in the world around music and rhythm games and with the eventual, and long awaited emergence of VR, I can think of no better company around our HCI theme to work with. Spark Capital, which was one of the original investors in Occulus, agrees, which makes me very happy.

Rock Band 4 is now out. In states like Colorado where a certain substance is now legal, I expect we’ll have a new marketing tie in. In the rest of the world, let me just suggest that having played the new game, you’ll want to get a copy and dust off your old equipment.

And get ready for some stuff that is just going to blow your mind – now and over the next 12 months – from my friends at Harmonix in Boston.

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Jan 16 2015

Discovering Ingress

Ingres at SeatacYesterday at the end of the day I was sitting in Greg Gottesman‘s office at Madrona catching up on email before dinner. Greg walked in with Ben Gilbert from Madrona Labs.

We started talking about sci-fi and Greg said “Are you into Ingress?” I responded “Is that the Google real-world / augmented reality / GPS game?” Greg said yes and I explained that I’d played with it a little when it first came out several years ago since a few friends in Boulder were into it but I lost track of it since there wasn’t an iOS app.

Greg pulled out his iPhone 6+ giant thing and started showing me. Probably not surprising to anyone, I grabbed my phone, downloaded it, created an account using the name the AIs have given me (“spikemachine”), and started doing random things.

Greg went down the hall and grabbed Brendan Ribera, also from Madrona Labs, who is a Level 8 superstar Ingres master-amazing-player. Within a few minutes we were on the Ingress Map looking at stuff that was going on around the world.

By this point my mind was blown and all I wanted to do was get from basic-beginner-newbie-no-clue-Ingre player to Level 2. With Brendan as my guide I quickly started to get the hang of it. A few hacks and XMPs later I was Level 2.

I asked Greg, Ben, and Branden if they had read Daemon by Daniel Suarez. None of them had heard of it so I went on a rant about Rick Klau’s discovery of the book and Leinad Zeraus, the evolution of this crazy thing into Daniel Suarez’s bestseller and the rest of my own wonderful romp through the writings of Daniel Suarez, William Herting, and Ramez Naam. It wasn’t merely my love of near-term sci-fi, but my discovery of what I believe is the core of the next generation of amazing near-term sci-fi writers. And, as a bonus to them having to listen to me, I bought each of them a Kindle version of Daemon.

Ingres completely feels like Daemon to me. There is plenty of chatter on the web about speculation of similarities and inspirations of Daemon on Ingress. I have no idea what the real story is, but since we are all suspending disbelief in both near-term sci-fi as well as Ingress, I’m going with the notion that they are linked even more than us puny humans realize.

This morning as I was walking through Sea-Tac on my way to my plane, I hacked a few portals, got a bunch of new stuff, and XMPed away whenever a resistance portal came into range. I’m still a total newbie, but I’m getting the hang of it. And yes, I’m part of the enlightenment as it offends me to the core of my soul that people would resist the future, although it seems to be more about smurfs vs. frogs.

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