Bungie vets raise $9M for VR game studio Polyarc to pursue augmented reality development

Polyarc co-founders, from left to right: Tam Armstrong, Danny Bulla, and Chris Alderson. (Polyarc Photo)

Virtual and augmented reality have yet to catch on with mainstream consumers, but investors are still betting on the immersive technology.

Seattle startup Polyarc raised a $9 million Series B round led by Hiro Capital, with participation from Vulcan Capital and Galaxy Interactive.

Founded in 2015 by veterans of Bungie, Polyarc is the developer behind Moss, a popular virtual reality game that debuted two years ago.

Now Polyarc plans to add augmented reality as a core competency within its studio.

“The pillars of Polyarc’s development in VR are physical interaction, emotional feedback, and suspension of disbelief through immersion,” said Tam Armstrong, co-founder and CEO. “We anticipate that our pillars of AR development will be physical interaction, emotional feedback, and suspension of disbelief through object persistence. Experiencing the feeling that a character is a living being in our own world — not just in another world somewhere else — will be a powerful experience for players.”

Various startups in the mixed reality industry have struggled in recent years as the technology has yet to catch on as many anticipated. Fellow Seattle-area companies including Vreal and Pixvana have either shut down or pivoted over the past year.

Armstrong is still bullish about VR and AR, citing advances in hardware development such as untethered devices. He said the hype was warranted but the rate of adoption got a bit ahead of itself.

“We are collectively contributing to a new form of computing, and it takes time to build a full stack that results in a good user experience,” Armstrong said. “As the industry grows, we scope our projects and grow the company carefully in step.”

He said AR will draw in even more users because it superimposes interactions on the real world and opens up opportunities for other applications outside of games.

Polyarc is focused on using the “fully-tracked” medium to create new ways for gamers to connect with characters.

“We are a step closer to seeing games that make real the dreams we had playing with toys as kids,” Armstrong said.

One trend going in Polyarc’s favor is the increase in video game engagement amid the pandemic, which is driving gaming adoption in the U.S.

Armstrong spent more than six years at Bungie, where he led an animation engineering team that developed the hugely-popular Destiny game. He also worked on the engineering team that developed Halo: Reach.

Armstrong founded Polyarc with Danny Bulla and Chris Alderson. Bulla is another Bungie veteran, spending nearly four years as a senior gameplay designer on Destiny. He previously worked at Rockstar Games and Midway. Bulla and Armstrong also both spent two months last year as prototype consultants for Oculus. Alderson spent seven years at Bungie from 2008 to 2015 as a character art lead, working on both Destiny and Halo titles.

The funding will allow Polyarc to work on multiple projects at once, Armstrong said, including additional VR titles. The 27-person company last raised cash in 2016.

Ian Livingstone, a founding partner of Hiro Capital, will join the Polyarc board as a result of the fresh funding.

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