HTC Invests $5 Million In VR Startup Steel Wool Studios

by Joe Durbin • August 31st, 2016

Oakland-based VR gaming studio Steel Wool Studios is announcing a $5 million series A round of investment from the Taiwanese electronics company, HTC Corporation. HTC is a well known creator of smartphones and other consumer devices. This year the company also released its Vive virtual reality headset which is the platform that Steel Wool’s first virtual reality game, Quar: Battle for Gate 18, made its debut upon.

Steel Wool is comprised of veterans from high-profile institutions such as Pixar and Telltale Games. The studio is formed by people with decades of combined 3D graphics experience. This investment from HTC will be used to “support the studio’s current and future VR development projects, which include…upcoming interactive simulation Mars: Odyssey, which will release on Steam on Sept 9,” according to a statement.

A press release announcing the investment revealed a synopsis for the experience:

Mars Odyssey is an interactive simulation that challenges players to repair NASA’s Mars Exploration Rovers — including Viking, Pathfinder, Spirit, and Opportunity — which have fallen under disrepair after years of resting dormant. Recreated with exacting NASA engineering schematics, the rovers can be found in precise locations on the Red planet based on their actual positions today. The surface of Mars was also developed using NASA’s publicly-available terrain and height map information. As players progress through the simulation, they will learn about exploration of the planet. Mars Odyssey is a passion project of Steel Wool Studios Co-Founder Joshua Qualtieri, who studied physics at Clemson University.

The decision to invest in a content creator is not a new one for HTC but it is a step that could bring them more in line with chief rival Oculus. Oculus is well known for its “Oculus Studios” imprint — the arm of the company responsible for securing and releasing content for Oculus-compatible headsets. We’ve asked whether Steel Wool is providing exclusivity to the Vive for its projects because Rift compatibility is notably absent from the company’s announcement today.

We reached out to HTC to ask if this investment will require Steel Wool to provide content exclusively to the Vive. It responded by confirming the investment but declining to comment on exclusivity at this time.

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