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A Cleveland Startup Blazing the Trail in VR Gaming

Northeast Ohio

“VR is not a trend. VR is the sandbox the future will be created in.”

That statement is fixed on the website of the Virtual Reality Venture Capital Alliance, a newly launched fund of funds with $10 billion to invest in virtual reality projects.

Don Hileman agrees. So much so, he started a business around it.

Don was first introduced to VR as a freelancer designing video games.

“I knew it was going to change how people worked, learned, and played. And I wanted to be a part of that.”

Don launched his startup, Enyx Studios, in 2015, became an approved developer for Xbox and PlayStation, and got to work creating content—not just games—for virtual reality.

“We are not focused on making a game,” Don says. “We’re making an interactive, immersive experience.”

Users can get that experience this fall when Enyx Studios releases its first storytelling video game, “A Haunting: Witching Hour,” for PlayStation VR.   

The game unfolds in episodes as players unravel a complex murder mystery through downloadable content. Each episode picks up where the previous episode’s cliffhanger left off.

PlayStation reviewed the game and didn’t just approve it for use—they began helping Don make sure it’s a success.  

“We have PlayStation tech advisors and marketing managers providing invaluable feedback and suggestions,” Don says. “For a small studio like Enyx, it’s amazing to have the largest console company in the world assist us when we need it.”

The game will initially launch on PlayStation’s VR headset, but Don wants to create Oculus and HTC Vive editions too, as well as a version for the next Xbox One.

And while the PlayStation VR headset his game will be played on has received some not-so-great reviews (players testing it with Resident Evil 7 got motion sickness), Don isn’t worried.

“You can’t judge the success of a piece of hardware off of one piece of software that runs on it,” he says.

And Don knows that setbacks come with the unchartered territory.

“VR developers are like pioneers exploring a new world. There will be ups and downs, but as with any technology, VR hardware and games will only get better over time,” Don says.

Despite any anticipated issues, Sony (PlayStation’s parent company) is expected to sell six million VR units in 2016. Just yesterday, the company's "summer wave" of devices available to preorder at GameStop sold out in minutes. And while gamers eagerly wait to get their hands on the hardware, VR-focused developers like Enyx Studios are busy writing the stories that’ll be told through this new technology. 

“VR is going to continuously improve and adapt,” Don says. “Less than 10 years ago VR was something only seen in sci-fi movies and here we are now able to experience it from the comfort of our homes. For a startup studio like ours, it’s extremely exciting to be part of something so new and ground breaking.” 

Leigh Keeton manages Lorain County Community College's economic development messaging with a particular focus on its startup support programs, including GLIDE, the college's on-campus technology incubator, and Innovation Fund Northeast Ohio.