Raghu Bathina, CEO at Playin Gameshas launched the first authentic reproduction of Pickleball in virtual reality. The firm that created Playin Pickleball, Playin Games, is devoted to bringing actual sports to virtual reality. A dedicated team of video game programmers and artists are working to make virtual reality experiences as realistic and visually stunning as possible.
Grit Daily was able to talk with Raghu and learn more about what has made Playin Games so successful in a market that seems saturated with VR games and companies.
Grit Daily: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your company?
Raghu Bathina: Playin Games was founded by three entrepreneurs with backgrounds in healthcare and technology. We have been active with VR for several years, and this was a natural extension of our work utilizing VR for patient therapy and physician training.
Grit Daily: What was the inspiration behind Playin Games?
Raghu Bathina: Our goal is to enable mental and physical wellness through positive experiences. Playin Games is all about getting people off the couch and doing something fun, that involves movement and social interaction. The Playin Games concept is to create a universe of sports games that are tied together with a central theme and familiar interface. Sort of like Wii Sports Resort but more realistic.
Grit Daily: Why specifically do you only focus on sports games?
Raghu Bathina: Sports and VR are a match made in heaven. The movement required to simulate real sports play is now possible with the latest VR headsets like the Meta Quest 2 and headsets are only going to get smaller and lighter. That is why exercise apps are becoming more and more popular in VR. We focus on sports because it appeals to a wide audience, regardless of gender or age. Frankly, we feel there are plenty of first-person shooter games but not many quality sports games in VR. From the comfort of your living room, you can socialize while playing a pickleball match with three other friends who live across the country; that’s pretty amazing.
Grit Daily: There are many VR sports games; what makes yours different?
Raghu Bathina: There are about 40 sports/fitness games in the main Meta store. Some of the realistic sports ones are very good, like Golf+ or Eleven Table Tennis. But really, there are not that many pure sports games. So, we feel there is room for more high quality sports games. Our differentiation is our focus on creating high quality games that are accurate to the real sport in terms of physics, sound and rules while also emphasizing the social and fun aspect of the experience.
Grit Daily: Tell us a little about the physics behind your VR games and why you believe they are essential for optimal gameplay.
Raghu Bathina: If I am creating a shooter game where my user uses laser guns to shoot aliens, I have a lot of freedom in terms of how things “feel” because the user has no reference. But when I create a pickleball game or a tennis game, the users will be very critical if it doesn’t “feel” like the real thing. This is why we spend a lot of time comparing real gameplay with in-game play, and it’s a continuous effort to get it just right. That is why we rely on our community of players to give us feedback so we can keep tweaking until perfection. What’s great is that we have so many internal knobs that can be tuned – like the drag coefficient of wind and how it affects a pickleball differently from a shuttlecock.
Grit Daily: What has been the most significant challenge that you have encountered?
Raghu Bathina: Putting it all together. There are so many components that go into making a complete game. The physics, the artwork, the audio, the multiplayer system, the tutorials, multiple regions, etc. Pulling all this together into a cohesive product that just works is a significant challenge.
Grit Daily: Besides seeing your vision come to life, what has been most rewarding about this process?
Raghu Bathina: So much learning! The entire team has learned and keeps learning as we continue the journey to make great sports games in VR.
Grit Daily: What’s on the horizon for Playin Games?
Raghu Bathina: More VR sports games and leveraging mixed reality to make things even more interesting.
Peter Page is the Contributions Editor at Grit Daily. Formerly at Entrepreneur.com, he began his journalism career as a newspaper reporter long before print journalism had even heard of the internet, much less realized it would demolish the industry. The years he worked as a police reporter are a big influence on his world view to this day. Page has some degree of expertise in environmental policy, the energy economy, ecosystem dynamics, the anthropology of urban gangs, the workings of civil and criminal courts, politics, the machinations of government, and the art of crystallizing thought in writing.