Back in June 2018 two core members of Job Simulator developer Owlchemy Labs departed the Google-owned studio. Today, they’re announcing their new AR/VR-focused venture: absurd:joy.
Former Owlchemy Studio Director Cy Wise and CEO Alex Schwartz revealed their new company during Oculus Connect 6 today. The pair are joined by Andy Moore, who worked on Fantastic Contraption and, more recently, VR art app Museum of Other Realities. In a debut blog post, the team announced it had raised $4.4 million in seed funding with backing from the likes of 1Up Ventures, WXR Fund and even former Beat Games CEO Jaroslav Beck (more on his investment aspirations here).
In the same post, Wise and Schwartz reasoned that there was “just too much left to do” to leave VR and AR behind. “We strongly believe that it’s only a matter of time for spatial computing to rock the planet and be the definitive way we interact with technology, from business to play, creative outlets to pragmatic tools, individual pursuits to social interactions,” they wrote.
Owlchemy made its name on intuitive VR interactions and commitment to immersion. Games like Job Simulator and, more recently, Vacation Simulator, put those tenants at the heart of their design. It sounds like absurd:joy will do much the same thing; Wise and Schwartz say their experiences will focus on making people feel embodied, allowing them to play in ways they want and go beyond the base definitions of a ‘game’.
Outside Of Owlchemy
So why start a new studio instead of just carrying on with Owlchemy? I asked Schwartz over email. “absurd:joy represents an exciting opportunity for a group of accomplished creators with prior success in VR to band together and combine our knowledge and expertise under one roof,” he replied. “A friend recently called Andy, Cy, and myself the “Avengers of VR” so I’ll jokingly parrot that. Why not?! And we’re just getting started. We’re talking to some additional folks and planning on collaborating with more incredibly talented experts in this space. Expect to hear more from us in the upcoming months.”
For now, absurd:joy isn’t announcing a new game or experience. The team is, however, working “directly” with Valve and Oculus on “a variety of experiments and experiences”. Schwartz said to look for more information on these later down the line. That said, the studio intends to share much of its findings online in the hopes of helping other developers.
“The plan is to post GIFs, experiments, stories, videos, examples, and other random peeks into our process,” the blog reads. “It’s wacky, we know. But secrets are dumb anyway.”
As for the developer’s significant investment, Schwartz told me this was the best way to give the team “runway” as it started to explore. “We believe that it’s certainly possible to bootstrap a business right now in XR if the company is scoped properly,” he said. “For us, in order to build a team of the best of the best and give ourselves the runway to be able to innovate and explore the space as deeply as we intend to, raising money was the optimal path for our particular goals.”
Given the developer’s pedigree, then, we’ll be keeping a close eye on absurd:joy moving forward.