Gym Class VR Builds On Popularity With NBA Logos and Venues

Via Sports Business Journal, a look at how Gym Class VR is building on its popularity with the addition of NBA logos and venues:

The mid-range jumper may be a lost art in the NBA game, but I sank one from just inside the free-throw line at the TD Garden, as the PA announcer called out the basket. When my opponent lost control of the ball, I went back on offense as the crowd started chanting, “De-fense! De-fense!”

After firing an air ball, I collected my own rebound and swished an uncontested putback. I then forgot to play defense, distracted by conversation with Gym Class co-founder Paul Katsen in what was my first interview conducted in the metaverse.

I wasn’t actually in Boston, though the parquet court and Celtics logo looked like the genuine artifact. Instead, I was in a PR firm’s Manhattan office wearing a Meta Quest 2 and trying not to break the overhead light fixture with a wayward shooting motion.

Gym Class has been attracting tens of thousands of daily users — and more than 100,000 on peak traffic days — making it the most popular VR sports game, with Meta reporting that more than 40% of users are between the ages of 13 and 24.

A recent driver has been a partnership agreement with the NBA, permitting Gym Class to license the league’s logos and venues. The NBA also took an equity stake in the game, which has also received backing from Kevin Durant’s 35 Ventures, Andre IguodalaLonzo BallDanny Green and the Golden State Warriors through GSW Sports Ventures. All 29 arenas are represented with attention paid to small details, such as the Toronto Raptors’ home court featuring the word “North” written in 25 different languages.

What NBA team will you unlock?

Step onto your favorite NBA team’s court, wear NBA apparel and accessories, and hoop with friends in Gym Class VR.

— Gym Class – Basketball VR (@Gymclassvr) May 18, 2023

“You have this ability for the first time to step onto a court, see what that’s like, and that thing hopefully is the magnet that brings you in,” Katsen said, noting that several dormant accounts were recently resurrected in order to subscribe to the NBA bundle.

The premise of Gym Class is as much social as it is basketball. Most users spend time on public courts, places for pickup games and hangouts. The game developers created their own avatar system for better individualized expression than the halfatars endemic to Meta games.

“If you grew up playing basketball, often as kids and adults, that’s where you hang out with your friends,” Katsen said. “Your parents aren’t there, it’s a very social atmosphere. And so once you have friends in these spaces, and you meet people from around the world, you end up wanting to differentiate how you look, you want to customize your space.”

“It’s way better than texting someone or playing Fortnite where you can’t see their body movements,” he added.

The NBA organically learned about Gym Class and saw an opportunity to help basketball-minded fans a chance to rep their favorite team and hoop in venues that are reasonable facsimiles of where the stars play.

“Our fan base is young and tech-savvy, multicultural, diverse geographically, and we’re always looking for different ways to meet them where they are,” said Adrienne O’Keefe, Head of Gaming & Digital Assets at the NBA.

Wearing virtual NBA team apparel is a glimpse of possible future partnerships. It’s easy to envision future brand opportunities with sneaker companies and more.


“I didn’t come from gaming, I came from consumer social,” said Katsen, a former product manager at Twitter and Coinbase prior to Gym Class. “And if you look at an interest graph of things that people talk about, or communities that pop up on Twitter, for instance, basketball is one of those central nodes that’s connected to fashion, fitness, media, celebrities.”

Other avenues for enhancing Gym Class include deeper basketball experiences — permitting full-court or five-on-five games — as well as expanding to other activities, some of which are already happening in a makeshift way by creative users. Katsen also acknowledged that the game has lacked a proper onboarding experience, which they’ll soon support.

Katsen said they’ve seen users post videos to TikTok that replicate other sports, like football and dodgeball, as well as self-expression through haircuts and tattoos, meaning the creation of barbershops and tattoo parlors could be on the product roadmap.

“The unexpected ways that we see people use these courts are how we get our next set of product insights,” he said. “It’s super interesting because it’s an open space.”


This entry was posted on Saturday, July 29th, 2023 at 3:46 am and is filed under Blog.  You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.  Both comments and pings are currently closed. 

Comments are closed.

© 2024 SynWorlds LLC.  ‘SynWorlds’ and ‘Virtual Worlds. Real Play.’ are service marks of SynWorlds LLC.