CastAR, the augmented reality start-up co-created by two former Valve employees, laid off its staff, shut down internal studio Eat Sleep Play and closed its doors today, according to now former employees. Less than 70 people have been laid off between the Palo Alto headquarters and its Salt Lake City studio which was comprised of former Eat Sleep Play and Avalanche Software employees.
It's more accurate to say CastAR was created while at Valve. As co-founded Jeri Ellsworth told me in 2013, Valve CEO Gabe Newell let her keep the IP rights to the technology she had developed at Valve with veteran game developer Rick Johnson :
"Gabe told me he will always be a Jeri fan when he was letting me go," Jeri tells me. As for why he let her and Johnson keep the technology: "I suspect there was a little guilt," she says. "Maybe he thought I couldn't refine it as far as I did. I will never know what was going on back when they let us go."
So at least two ironies at play here: Augmented reality is showing way more mass market promise than VR platforms like Valve's Vive, which is hardly selling. And CastAR would have probably had a better chance at succeeding if Valve had just kept the IP rights and funded Jeri and Rick's start-up as a spinoff of the company, enabling them to incorporate Valve's extensive library of game IP (Half-Life, Team Fortess, etc.) into the new AR platform. Hmm, since the startup is reportedly looking to sell the rights to CastAR, maybe Gabe could still do just that.