Japan's Tonchidot Raises $12M for SoLAR: Location-Based, Social and Augmented Reality Games Platform

Japanese based Mobile augmented reality platform provider Tonchidot Corporation recently completed a Series B round of financing of $12M by various Japanese companies like KDDI SPiRE and others. DCM also joined this round of funding after leading Tonchidot’s $4M in series A financing back in Dec 2008. The company’s app platform called SoLAR allows third party developers to release games with social, LBS and AR components empowered with their flagship Sekai Camera application. More after the jump.

Tonchidot’s SoLAR platform is aiming to lead the way to differentiated gaming experiences for users internationally, starting with Japan. The platform also offers Twitter and Facebook connectivity and payment solutions for iPhone/Android. Developers will also have access to the Sekai Camera App, launched in 2009, that offers extremely accurate recognition. Tonchidot released its OpenAir API in March of 2010 to allow third party delivery of content through the Sekai Camerai which has a 30 percent penetration among iPhone users in Japan.

“We’re seeing tremendous opportunity evolving for mobile gaming globally,” said Osuke Honda, Tonchidot Series A investor and DCM Partner. “The first wave of mobile gaming innovation started in Japan, the world’s most advanced market for mobile services, with Japanese social gaming companies like GREE and DeNA. The second wave, which is currently gaining traction in the US, came with popular location-based companies like Foursquare and Booyah. We firmly believe that Tonchidot, with their new augmented reality social gaming platform, will drive the third wave of mobile gaming innovation globally.”

Tonchidot’s software allows users to view info on their screens about their physical location along with user generated geo-tagged content and battle virtual monsters while defusing virtual bombs in real environments. There are also check-in elements similar to the ones found in popular location based games like Booyah’s MyTown. According to an interview with Osuke Honda, general partner with venture firm DCM that participated in the rounds of financing, the Wall Street Journal blog shared Osuke’s viewpoint on the Japanese gaming market with a focus on augmented reality.

“We are excited about opportunities to greatly enhance user experience while combining traditional mobile social games with LBS (Location Based Service) and AR technologies,” explained Takahito Iguchi, Tonchidot’s CEO. “We have taken social gaming to a new level from the computer screen to the real world where friends can visit a flourishing farmland, interact with adorable pets, and swim through a customized fish-tank, all in the middle of Tokyo. Tonchidot’s new mobile gaming platform will take you BEYOND REALITY!”

Osuke believes the current wave of AR gaming will be strongly tied to social motivations and have location based components. The next wave, he feels, will leverage 3-D and the intersection of virtual and real. The Japanese market is poised for growth and has has 3G technology for the past decade. Japanese consumers are also used to mobile gaming and accustomed to mobile payments. Japan also has very little real estate compared to United States so we can predict there will be a lot of competition as users vie for territorial control in location based games. It still remains to be seen how popular iPhone will get in Japan, however, as less than 5 percent of the population has iPhones.

Tonchidot’s first SoLAR game, KA-BOOM, lets players engage in social game play as they cooperate in virtual bombing in real-world locations. A map of these virtual bombs can be seen here. Another app called CooKoo has been released and enhances ones Twitter experience. We covered an event recently in which Joe Dunn of e23 games talked about his flagship geo-located AR game in which people can place ‘graffiti’ in real-world locations and he was very excited for the space.

Sekai Camera is available for iPhone, Android, iPad and the web. OpenAir is also accessible at the Sekai Camera site.

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