Irvine-based game developer Ready at Dawn could get a jump-start on its push to launch its own titles and control content, thanks to its recently struck agreement to develop video games for the highly anticipated virtual reality headset from Oculus VR Inc.
“We’re very much desirous of owning and building our IP,” said Paul Sams, who became chief executive of Ready at Dawn this year after 20 years at Blizzard Entertainment Inc., which also in Irvine. “We’re in the process of trying to figure out what the company’s next steps are.”
One possible step is seeking strategic investments as it weighs funding options, according to Sams.
The immediate focus is on designing content for the Oculus Rift, which was recently unveiled in San Francisco.
Oculus, which moved its headquarters from Irvine to Silicon Valley after its $2 billion sale to Menlo Park-based Facebook Inc. last year, recently announced several features of the Rift, including custom displays, optic and tracking systems, an external sensor that plugs into the computer, two OLED screens, and a camera that tracks body movement and mimics it in the virtual world.
“It really delivers the magic of presence,” Oculus cofounder and Chief Executive Brandon Iribe said at a recent press conference to unveil the Rift. “It just doesn’t trick your eyes; it also tricks your ears.”
The headset will be available in the first quarter of next year and cost about $1,500 with a VR-ready PC. The device alone will cost $300 to $500, in line with other gaming consoles.
Ready at Dawn joins a small roster of independent game developers as launch partners for the Rift, including: Insomniac Games, the developer behind the popular PlayStation franchises “Resistance,” “Ratchet & Clank,” and the first three “Spyro the Dragon” titles; Bellevue, Wash.-based Carbon Games Inc., the maker of the free-to-play futuristic multiplayer battle game “Airmech” for Microsoft Windows and Google Chrome’s “Native Client”; and Square Enix Holdings Co., a Tokyo-based company known for its role-playing franchises “Final Fantasy,” “Dragon Quest” and “Kingdom Hearts.”
“We’re pretty geeked about it,” Sams said of the partnership that links his studio with perhaps the most watched and touted technology segment across the globe. “There’s a great opportunity for us.”
The deal could provide a bridge for Ready at Dawn to shift its strategy from designing games for the likes of Sony, Capcom and Nintendo to developing its own games to better control its destiny.
“We would like to publish our own games,” Sams said. “We can build a real nice business. We want to grow and take them to the next level.”
Sams served as Blizzard’s president and chief operating officer before joining fellow Blizzard alums Ru Weerasuriya and Andrea Pessino, who launched Ready at Dawn it in 2003, growing it to some 100 employees. Its games include the pest exterminator adventure “Daxter” for PlayStation Portable, the “God of War” series for PSP and PlayStation 3, and the highly regarded Victorian-era adventure shooter title “The Order: 1886” for PlayStation 4.
Ready at Dawn could benefit from a $10 million investment Oculus said it will make in independent studios to spur VR game development and advancement in an industry dominated by gaming giants.
Sams, who helped usher in a string of franchise hits at Blizzard—the county’s largest software maker, with some 2,000 local workers and revenue of $1.72 billion last year—relishes the opportunity to build another hit in Orange County.
“As much as I loved all things at Blizzard, there’s something fun and exciting about being in a smaller environment again,” he said. “Kind of an us-against-the-world mentality.”