- Thirdverse has acquired $20 million in funding and appointed Gumi founder Hironao Kunimitsu as CEO, as he transitions from mobile gaming to virtual reality and the metaverse.
- Thirdverse was led by JAFCO Group, with involvement from Presence Capital, Sisu Ventures, Incubate Fund, and Animoca Brands.
- The new money from Animoca Brands will also be used to fuel the company’s multi-year metaverse ambition.
- Kunimitsu is also investing in blockchain gaming through Gumi Cryptos, a venture fund focusing on crypto games and non-fungible tokens (NFTs), which leverage the blockchain’s transparent and secure record to verify the validity of digital objects.
Thirdverse has acquired $20 million in funding and appointed Gumi founder Hironao Kunimitsu as CEO, as he transitions from mobile gaming to virtual reality and the metaverse. That is a significant step for one of Japan’s most enterprising gaming CEOs, who came to prominence during the mobile gaming period and is now betting big on VR.
Thirdverse creates virtual reality games like Swords of Gargantua, and Kunimitsu is growing impatient in his pursuit of VR and the metaverse as the next great entertainment platforms.
Gumi, which he founded in 2007, helped to pave the way for current mobile gaming in Japan. Brave Frontier is one of the games released by the Tokyo-based mobile gaming firm. He took the firm public in 2014 as CEO. In 2020, he co-founded Thirdverse, as well as the Virtual Reality Fund, Gumi Cryptos Capital, and other VR incubators in Tokyo, Seoul, and Helsinki.
Kunimitsu is currently leaving Gumi (where he was most recently chairman) to lead Tokyo-based Thirdverse alongside co-founders Kiyoshi, Shin, Satsoshi Ban, and Masaru Ohnogi. And he’s doing it because he believes that technologies like virtual reality, gaming, and blockchain will usher in the metaverse, a realm of linked virtual worlds as in novels like Snow Crash and Ready Player One — and Japanese anime-like Sword Art Online.
He stated that he will use his experience in gaming, virtual reality, blockchain, and extending multinational enterprises into new areas to support Thirdverse’s growth. Kunimitsu told me at our GamesBeat Summit: Into the Metaverse event in January that the tale of Sword Art Online encouraged him to consider the same type of metaverse envisioned in Ready Player One.
Thirdverse was led by JAFCO Group, with involvement from Presence Capital, Sisu Ventures, Incubate Fund, and Animoca Brands. Brian Fargo, the creator of inXile Entertainment and a video game producer, has also joined the Thirdverse advisory board.
Ohnogi, who previously showed me an early version of Swords of Gargantua, said in a statement that he is thrilled that Kunimitsu is joining as CEO to develop the worldwide company and support the objective to build the metaverse.
Why Kunimitsu separated the companies?
Switching from a large public business, Gumi, to a startup, Thirdverse, is a hazardous decision because Gumi employs over 730 people, whereas Thirdverse employs 60. Thirdverse is in a more speculative stage of development, which Kunimitsu finds intriguing.
According to Kunimitsu, Thirdverse is assembling a world-class tech development and publishing team with expertise in gaming, virtual reality, and blockchain. The new money from Animoca Brands will also be used to fuel the company’s multi-year metaverse ambition, he added. Kunimitsu stated that he planned for the CEO transition by purchasing Thirdverse from Gumi last year.
“I have fully left Gumi, and I am no longer involved in day-to-day operations,” Kunimitsu stated. Gumi’s CEO is Makoto Motoyoshi, the company’s previous chief financial officer. “For the time being, Gumi is OK, and I will concentrate on Thirdverse,” Kunimitsu added. “Virtual reality and blockchain are my next stages.”
He highlighted that it was difficult to continue investing in VR at Thirdverse while it was owned by the public business, Gumi since investors are concerned about earnings. VR has taken a long time to develop, and it is preferable to split it as a distinct, privately held firm that can afford to take risks without worrying about public company investors, according to Kunimitsu.
“I’ve been doing VR since 2015,” he explained. “Finally, it is expanding. I’ve chosen to devote all of my energy to this new challenge.” He went through each year, 2015, 2016, and so on. “Finally, after seven years, it is starting to grow,” he added.
He credited the arrival of Facebook’s Oculus Quest 2 wireless VR headset, which launched last autumn for as little as $300. Following that, sales of Swords of Gargantua resumed their upward trend.
NFTs and blockchain
Kunimitsu is also investing in blockchain gaming through Gumi Cryptos, a venture fund focusing on crypto games and non-fungible tokens (NFTs), which leverage the blockchain’s transparent and secure record to verify the validity of digital objects. Because they can validate rarity in-game products, NFTs are a new way to monetize games, allowing them to be sold for greater prices. NFTs are particularly important in the metaverse because they allow users to transfer avatars and other things from one game to another. Kunimitsu thinks that because NFTs may be utilized as prizes in games, they can be used to enable gamers to earn money while playing games.
“Many parents have told me that games are a waste of time,” he added. “Some youngsters get money by playing video games, but esports is really difficult. That ratio, the possibility of making money from esports games, is as tough to achieve as being a baseball or football player.”
However, he believes that with NFTs, game firms will be able to establish genuine economies within virtual worlds, allowing many more individuals to make a livelihood playing game. Kunimitsu also founded the blockchain firm Financie and served on the board of Double Jump. Tokyo-based developer of the popular blockchain game My Crypto Heroes.
Thirdverse has two VR games in development, according to Kunimitsu, and the fresh amount of funding will be used to bring those games to market. Multiplayer will be available in VR settings. “The future of the metaverse is VR and NFTs combined,” he added. He stated that his vision for Thirdverse has not altered over time. The goal is to create a third location in the metaverse, in addition to the home and office, where people may have fun.
“Before that can happen, we need to produce a tremendous hit game,” he explained. “This is the internet’s and games’ future. I believe it is a very exciting time.”
He compared it to the days when Gumi was first launched when mobile gaming really took off. He believes that gaming and social networking will be part of the metaverse. While he is pleased that Facebook would invest in the metaverse, Kunimitsu feels one aspect of the concept is fundamentally flawed. He prefers to make fake identities in the metaverse rather than be himself, as Facebook is likely to need actual identities. “I want to be someone other than myself,” he explained.