Genvid Technologies is a game technology solutions provider which showcased its standout VR interactive streams product at GDC last week. In 2016 it raised a fee in the region of $1.5m to build a new type of esports broadcast product.
We had a chat with Genvid CEO Jacob Navok about this and all that they have going on right now.
Esports Insider: Tell us more about the SDK (Software Development Kits) and why you see interactive streaming as the future of the games industry.
Jacob: Our SDK is the first broadcasting software built from the ground up with games in mind. We take into account that each frame created (rendered) by the game contains a wealth of data, and via our SDK, allow for that data to be captured and broadcast alongside the video.
“Yesterday’s game broadcasting solutions have treated games like television products, rather than digitally streaming media”
Until now, esports broadcasts have discarded all of this data, only transmitting a non-interactive video feed. Genvid-enabled streams return the data for each video frame, perfectly synchronized for each stream, allowing viewers to actually click on the screen as though they were playing the game.
Yesterday’s game broadcasting solutions have treated games like television products, rather than digitally streaming media. It’s bizarre – imagine broadcasting a TV sports game while treating the medium as though it was still radio.
What’s even more funny is that in the rush to get games broadcast, no one has taken into consideration the importance of capturing and sending the data to viewers, but regular sports (basketball, football etc.) have been trying every trick under the sun to make that data up. Consider Intel’s acquisition of Replay.
Esports Insider: You recently announced your first interactive stream for a VR game…what are the different challenges when it comes to virtual reality titles?
Jacob: One of the biggest problems facing VR today is the barrier to entry.
Everyone is talking about headset sales, and how that affects the content ecosystem, but let’s take a step back: there’s a serious discoverability and accessibility problem today for the VR content that already exists. Sure it’s only possible to have a true-VR experience via a VR hardware platform, but in the rush to market, I think a lot of people are forgetting about how the masses interact with games today. Just like our first exposure to a premium console or PC game may not be playing it, our first interaction to a novel VR game does not necessarily have to be in VR (or in headset). Gaming audiences today expect to be able to vet their gaming purchases via a streaming medium. When you want to learn whether a game is good, you watch a stream.
“There’s a serious discoverability and accessibility problem today for the VR content that already exists”
The first compelling streams of VR games, also do not necessarily need to be in VR or 360 video, if made interactive.
VR is really hard to watch streamed today. The headset view of a VR game can get so jerky, it’s like watching the Blair Witch Project. Today, most machines don’t have the graphics power to render the two separate viewpoints at 90 fps for the VR experience and re-render the same game locally from alternate perspectives and encode it.
We’re offloading game render so that the game developer can generate multiple perspectives. Additionally, we’re making those views interactive so new viewers can understand what they are watching and learn about the game. You’ll be able to click on the Kaiju in Super Kaiju, and see in realtime what the cards are that are being used by the player. You’ll be able to learn about the different cards through the tooltips that are normally available only when playing.
Esports Insider: Can you enlighten ESI readers on browser context advertisements and why they’ll become more commonplace
Jacob: Everyone hates spam. We hate the idea of commercial breaks that get in the way of the content we like, and we have grown accustomed to a world of targeted marketing, where the ads we are served all have some actual consideration of our preferences.
The Genvid SDK is all about customizing the individual viewer experience, while actually returning the data for each frame back to each viewer’s playback. The end result is we know what is happening on the screen when you’re watching the screen. So if you’re a huge fan of soda, we can project, for example, a Mountain Dew advertisement on a game wall, that only you see, that is local to you, that is clickable for you. In our demo it’s in a very subtle place, so you see it, but it’s like watching those ads on the sides of a stadium in a baseball game; it doesn’t distract.
We could even make games where if you click on certain parts of the match (that could be brand sponsored) you’ll earn points as a viewer that will enable triggers to help players you like, or in competitions, unlock items for your own player.
What’s important here is that the player never sees the ad, or is distracted by it. Advertising hasn’t worked in games because what player wants to see ads when he’s bought the game, or is playing it. But viewers are used to advertisements, and video roll up until now has been annoying and distracting. If we can make it feel natural, and also interacting with the ad more like a game, we think viewers will find this a superior alternative to that distracting video roll that pops up randomly in crucial moments of matches.
Esports Insider: Has it been a hard sell so far? It seems particularly well suited to indie developers that need to maximise revenue streams…
Jacob: We have been shocked at the pickup. Our testing program last fall saw 25 game developers, including engine makers, console makers and the world’s largest publishers.
“The question, particularly for esports as an industry, is not where we are today, but where we are going tomorrow, and which games are going to be at the forefront”
We’re in active development with a half dozen, and some of these are big places.
I’m personally interested in the indie developer landscape. I want to know where the next League or the next Minecraft is coming from and partner with them. I also want to help those developers who have seen the streaming ecosystem grow up around them, but haven’t found an edge yet to make something new and exciting.
In the industry we need to be wary of looking in the rearview mirror. The question, particularly for esports as an industry, is not where we are today, but where we are going tomorrow, and which games are going to be at the forefront of the next decade of community playing and watching.
Esports Insider: Why would major game developers use the SDKs?
Jacob: The major game developers have been the bulk of our business efforts at this time.
“You don’t build your own occlusion software; why would you build your own streaming tech?”
They are already looking at monetizing game viewership and they have the resources to make amazing game broadcasts. We built the SDK with their needs in mind: streaming platform independent, infrastructure independent, engine independent. So when we show them the ability to do things like clickable streams that lets their viewers choose their own angles, click on players as though in engine, what they see is the ability to expand their existing spectator modes to any video stream. That’s powerful, not just from the perspective of marketing their product, but also the ability to monetize that viewer base.
We have some advantages being only tools. Since we aren’t trying to be a platform, we dedicate ourselves to ease of use, flexibility, and support for our partners. I look at companies like Umbra and Audiokinetic for inspiration.
You don’t build your own occlusion software; why would you build your own streaming tech?