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Voice-controlled game dev Volley nets $55 million in funding

With $55 million from Microsoft, Amazon Alexa and others, Volley is looking to build even more voice-controlled, AI-powered games to be played at home.

Justin Carter, Contributing Editor

July 9, 2024

2 Min Read
Logo for game developer Volley.
Image via Volley.

Volley, a developer that specializes in voice-controlled video games for devices like Amazon Alexa and Google Home, recently raised $55 million in funding for future projects.

Per the press release, this funding was led by Microsoft (via its M12 Ventures), along with Lightspeed Venture Partners. Other conributors include BITKRAFT, Causeway Media Partners, and the Amazon Alexa Fund.

CEO Max Child said the new funding will "accelerate our development of new voice-controlled, AI-powered games. Large Language Models and other emerging voice AI technologies are allowing us to create entirely new categories of games that weren’t previously possible."

The studio's current AI-powered voice games include Jeopardy! and Wheel of Fortune. Collectively, those games have garnered over 30 million players, and over five million players on a monthly basis.

Along with speech recognition and large language models, the proprietary Volley stack is built on speech synthesis and natural language processing. Its first fully LLM-powered game was 20 Questions from earlier this year.

GenAI and its advocates just want to be heard

Game publishers are still trying to find a way to use generative AI in games, particularly for voices. That's become a notable point of contention between them and the SAG-AFTRA union, which threatened a strike if an agreement on AI usage isn't met.

In Microsoft's case, it's previously said to be exploring how genAI could be used for customer service and fields of game development like design.

Other studios like Yellow see the technology as a tool to assist with 3D modeling or making in-game background art. In the former's case, Yellow made its own modeling tool powered by genAI rather than use a preexisting tool like Midjourney.

Amidst this, generative AI is fighting a battle of public perception. Productions across the larger entertainment industry that use genAI (and those who try to promote it online) are met with harsh criticism.

Fast food places like McDonald's and Wendy's recently ditched their plans for AI drive-thru ordering, saying it may be years before the technology is truly ready.

Similarly, OpenAI drew ire when it replicated the voice of actor Scarlett Johansson for a chatbot, despite her explicit refusal to not have her voice used.

Still, Volley's games and their apparent success show there's a market for such titles, at least in the casual market.

About the Author(s)

Justin Carter

Contributing Editor, GameDeveloper.com

A Kansas City, MO native, Justin Carter has written for numerous sites including IGN, Polygon, and SyFy Wire. In addition to Game Developer, his writing can be found at io9 over on Gizmodo. Don't ask him about how much gum he's had, because the answer will be more than he's willing to admit.

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