Israel's Side-Kick sees boost from virtual reality games

TEL AVIV - Israeli games studio Side-Kick Games said it has produced one of the first games for the Samsung Gear VR, Samsung Electronics' new virtual reality (VR) product.

Samsung Gear VR uses Samsung phones as screens, which are housed inside plastic enclosures containing two lenses, creating a full VR headset.

Romans 360 is a virtual reality-enabled version of Side-Kick's "Romans from Mars", in which players must defend their castle from an invading Martian army by moving their heads and using gaze control.

Side-Kick, founded in 2010, was among the first companies to develop games controlled by motion for technologies created by Intel, Leap Motion and PrimeSense, which was acquired last year by Apple. "Romans From Mars, our flagship game, is expanding beyond the initial smartphone and tablet versions," said Guy Bendov, Side-Kick's chief executive officer.

Side-Kick has also developed games with medical applications, such as one designed for a US company that enables patients to perform physical therapy at home.

Co-founder Tal Raviv said one of the challenges in developing motion for virtual reality games is that a sudden, quick movement can cause nausea. "There is a difference between what your body feels and your brain tells your body," he told Reuters.

Side-Kick develops games for companies such as Intel and also publishes its owns games for the mobile market. The mobile games are free for a basic package but playing the full version requires payment.

Investors in the company include Israel's Jasmine Group and the Kima Ventures fund, co-founded by France's Xavier Niel. "We see mobile virtual reality as a huge opportunity," Raviv said. "We expect that business to grow rapidly and are considering raising money for developing games for that market."