date June 14, 2022 time 30:00 Minutes
Mike Nicholas
Mike Nicholas

Dir. of Global Sales at Digital River

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Commerce Connect Podcast
Rec Room’s Mike Schmid on the Key to the Metaverse: Ubiquity
June 14, 2022
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Rec Room’s Mike Schmid on the Key to the Metaverse: Ubiquity

Rec Room's Mike Schmid considers himself a start-up kind of a guy, which is one reason he decided it was time to leave his high-profile gig at Apple to try his hand at a company he’d been eyeing for some time. With more than 37-million users worldwide, the free-to-use platform allows creators to customize interactive rooms, and build experiences for others to share. Late last year, the company announced $145-million in new funding, bringing the company’s valuation to $3.5 billion. Heady stuff for a start-up that first got off the ground in 2016. The pandemic pushed growth even further.

“I think that we were already on a good growth trajectory during that time,” Schmid told Digital River’s Mike Nicholas. “People were spending more time at home, and we’re spending more money online – all of those benefits rolled over not just to us, but to the gaming ecosystem at large.” (2:18)

Now as Head of Publishing at Rec Room, Schmid’s job is to make sure users stay engaged, and these days, the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow appears to be the so-called Metaverse. At least that’s how the media frame it. Schmid thinks the reality doesn’t yet live up to the hype. “I think if you ask, you know, five different people what the Metaverse is, you’ll get five different answers, and probably based on the round of funding they’re in.”

Schmid is hardly turning up his nose at the idea of the Metaverse. As he points out, Rec Room is already there because virtual reality is what Rec Room does. Now Schmid wants to make sure Rec Room can deliver its VR experiences everywhere.

“One of our core beliefs is that if you’re going to build a platform like this, you have to be everywhere. You have to be accessible. So, making sure you’re not just on all the game consoles, but on mobile devices. And starting in VR gives us a bit of an unfair advantage, because VR tends to be the hardest market to crack.” Schmid says because Rec Room has already addressed usability and functionality, it has a head start on companies still finding their way in an incredibly complex space. (3:30)

Schmid says the company is taking a close look at what steps it needs to be taking over the next few years to achieve its goal of opening up worlds of possibility for its user base, a younger demographic Schmid hopes to grow as Rec Room’s audience matures. That means making sure Rec Room is everywhere users are, or as Digital River’s Nicholas pointed out, an omnichannel approach. “Yeah, it’s the same concept,” said Schmid. “Making sure your presence is ubiquitous and people can access you anyway that they have access to.”

“I think we aspire to get to a place where anything is possible in Rec Room,” Schmid added. “I think taking our time and thinking about what that looks like over the next couple of years is kind of our main mission.” (5:40)

Like all over developers, Rec Room must deal with the concept of walled gardens if it aspires to be everywhere its users are. It’s not uncommon for app developers to pay 30% for the privilege of being able to offer an app in a major ecosystem. Schmid sees those platforms as slow to change, but worthy of diplomacy to both live within the rules of the walled garden, and also help facilitate the direction of the change. Schmid says the big platforms offer major benefits, including marketing. Even so, Schmid says Rec Room is putting an emphasis on self-publishing, focusing on its own website, making sure it’s optimized for direct purchases as well as gift cards. (10:15)

Learn more by listening to the full podcast with Rec Room’s Mike Schmid and Digital River’s Mike Nicholas.