Even as Magic Leap has cleared the milestone of its first hardware release, the augmented reality startup still has big challenges ahead as it aims to entice developers to build the content for its wild new device.
The $ 2,295 Magic Leap One headset is a very polished-looking developer kit, but it didn’t ship with a ton of software for buyers to play around with at launch, just a couple short experiences that were essentially concept proofs.
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The startup, which was most recently valued at north of $ 6 billion, is just a few weeks away from its first developer conference taking place down in Los Angeles. The L.E.A.P. conference will be an opportunity for the company to bring more developers to its platform to build up a content library ahead of an eventual more consumer-facing release.
At L.E.A.P., Magic Leap is planning to show off more than a dozen demos from developers, the company tells TechCrunch.
We’ve already taken a hands-on look at a full Angry Birds game for Magic Leap One from Rovio and Resolution Games. Other demos to be showcased include Wingnut‘s Funhouse Pest Control, Funomena‘s Luna: Moondust Garden, Meow Wolf‘s The Mech, Wayfair Sketch and Magic Leap’s own Create title. We’ll also finally see the first demo of Dr. Grordbort’s Invaders, a shooter title by Weta Workshops that Magic Leap has been hyping since its first-ever teaser video.
Though building up content for a new device category is certainly daunting, Magic Leap has the benefit of having seen the major players of the VR industry brute force their way past some of these issues.
For the VR industry’s first two years following the releases of the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift, one of the big issues was that you could play through most of the good available titles in a week or two. The “content problem,” as it was called, led Facebook to pump hundreds of millions of dollars into upstart studios to build games that wouldn’t have otherwise been created. Fast forward to 2018 and there are plenty of high-quality games available on the Oculus and Steam stores though groups like Oculus and HTC are still investing just as heavily.
With Microsoft pointing its HoloLens AR developer ecosystem towards the enterprise, Magic Leap is in the somewhat lonely position of wrangling developers around building stuff for an AR headset that appeals to consumers, though plenty are excited to just get in on the ground floor.
“I’ve always been very fascinated at being able to do things at the forefront of technology, I definitely think that games are going to be trailblazing on these platforms when it comes to user interface and just coming up with what you can use it for,” Resolution Games CEO Tommy Palm told TechCrunch. “I think we’re among a lot of small and big companies that are believing that this is going to be a very big computing platform in the future.”
Magic Leap has several partnerships built up already with game studios, media orgs like The New York Times, and, just announced today, medtech company Brainlab.
Getting other partners to invest significant resources into the early platform could require Magic Leap to invest more of its own funds into kickstarting the content ecosystem. The startup has raised at least $ 2.3 billion according to Crunchbase, but as it takes an end-to-end approach to the entire ecosystem, it’s going to have to decide where its efforts are best spent. Things will certainly be expedited if and when Apple and/or Google embrace AR headset hardware and bring their developer networks into the fold, but Magic Leap will obviously want to make the most of its head start before then.
Magic Leap may be an entirely new platform with some big investors and big ideas. It’s newest challenge is a very old one however, getting developers pumped up for something new.