Windup Minds raises $1.6 million in seed funding to launch new games and experiences for Virtual and Mixed Reality
Windup Minds will launch with talent from indie to AAA, Oculus to Magic Leap, shooters to music games, mobile to console to reimagine virtual creatures you befriend, nurture
SEATTLE & LOS ANGELES, Aug 7, 2023 - Windup Minds comes out of stealth mode to
announce the closing of its pre-seed funding as they are deep in development of a
virtual creature experience for mixed and virtual reality XR platforms. The studio brings
expertise in animal cognition, systems-driven simulation and emergent gameplay to a
new medium that makes your virtual companion feel real.
The team is comprised of veteran talent from leading gaming platforms and studios including Oculus, EA, Wevr, 17-Bit, PopCap, Harmonix, Bungie, Magic Leap, Looking Glass, and Niantic. They have collectively been responsible for some of the most influential VR experiences (Dreamdeck, Farlands, Toybox, Bogo, First Steps, First Contact, TheBlu, Irrational Exuberance), and deeply involved across a broad portfolio of bestselling game franchises ( Plants vs Zombies, Medal of Honor, Destiny, Rock Band, Peggle, System Shock, EverQuest).
Virtual creatures started with the Tamagotchi, a 1-bit, simple handheld electronic game. A generation later, the game’s impact is still remembered, as proof that a player can form deep emotional attachments with a digital creature. That isn’t the only example: communities have adopted Sony AIBO robot dogs as if they were real pets. Shigeru Miyamoto was inspired by his own dogs to create a global smash hit, the digital pet game Nintendogs.
“Our relationship with dogs and cats is more than just a pastime—it’s part of the social evolution of human beings,” said Windup Minds' CEO Bernard Yee. “If humans have domesticated wolves, it’s equally true that wolves have domesticated humans. We’re hardwired to play with, and love them.”
Modern game AI is capable of engagement and responsiveness far beyond what Tamagotchi offered, and modern game engines can deliver performances far more nuanced than Sony’s robot dog—but until now, a truly believable pet sim was missing something. The physicality of the Tamagotchis and AIBOs was intrinsic to their magic - they felt real because they were real.
Windup Minds believes XR will transform this relationship. The medium of XR is uniquely capable of building emotional connections with characters as vibrant and three-dimensional as any pet. “When we built Dreamdeck for Mark [Zuckerberg] and Brendan [Iribe] to announce the Rift headset at the first Oculus Connect, we saw players tear their prototype headsets off when our T-Rex came towards them,” said Yee. ”They intellectually knew they were in a little demo cubicle, but their instinctual brains told them ‘there’s a dinosaur in the room with you.’ VR and MR can make you feel like your digital pet is real in a way no other medium can.”
“How does your cat or dog really see the world? We’re pushing on something fundamental and fantastic, and we’ve assembled the most incredible team to tackle this bold experience. We're thrilled to reimagine this beloved genre with XR—where your imaginary friends can see you for the first time,” said Windup Minds CTO and Game Director Ben Vance
Investment is led by The Venture Reality Fund, Acequia Capital, and New Leaf Ventures as well as industry heavyweights including Nate Mitchell (founder, Oculus), Eden Chen (founder, Pragma; Riot Games), James Gwertzman (founder, Playfab; PopCap/EA), Tom Sanocki (Oculus; Pixar), Greg Essig (Apple), and Anthony Batt (Outsider DAO; Wevr).
“We have been fans of Bernie and Ben’s amazing work in gaming and VR for years and truly excited with their vision of bringing the joy of pet companionship to VR and MR. When they shared their ambitions of creating virtual companions that learn and grow with you, we wanted to support that vision,” said Tipatat Chennavasin, co-founder and general partner, The Venture Reality Fund, the lead investor. “When we think of what’s possible in VR, we hope for experiences that are not just for entertainment but something deeper and more meaningful.”
About Windup Minds
Founded in June 2023 by Bernard Yee (Oculus, PopCap/EA), Ben Vance (Wevr, EA),
Amy Conchie (Oculus, Microsoft Hololens) and Stefani Swiatkowski (Oculus), Windup
Minds is a remote-first team with talent drawn from some of the most storied franchises
in video games, aiming to set a new bar for creature interaction. Headquarters are in Seattle, WA.
Visit us at: WindupMinds.com
Windup Minds: firstname.lastname@example.org