What is Gather Town?
Gather Town is a RPG-like virtual gathering space for people to meet up, co-work, attend events and so on. It was founded in 2020 by Phillip Wang and Kumail Jaffer, with over 4 millions users now and still growing in fast pace.
Gather Town = Sims + Zoom + Slack
You can imagine it as “Sims for enterprise”, “Sims for school”, “Sims for family and friends”, …etc. Gather Town provides lots of customization options just like Sims does. Moreover, it also emphasizes on providing interaction options for users. Text chat, Audio chat, Video chat are all available. You can also share your screen, discuss on whiteboard, watch video together and also play game together.
Below are some usages you can do with Gather Town:
Gather Town for Work
- Co-working space
Gather Town for Life
- Hanging out with friends
- Family reunion
- Couples dating
- Graduation ceremony
What Makes it Special?
Due to the Covid pandemic, many of us start to work from home. Initially, we feel happy for not having to spend hours communicating to the office everyday. Physical meetings turn into online meetings. We sit in front of the screen and click the meeting’s link. Every workday seems very likely – working, online meetings, working, end of the day. After a few weeks of WFH, do you have the feel that something is missing? Do you remember when’s your last small coffee talks or lunch gathering?
We are still working and discussing together, but we are also less connected with each other. Relationships are build through small interactions, and Gather Town makes it easier to happen.
In Gather Town, you can see each other’s avatar in the virtual office. You can literally walk up to someone and have a small talk. The conversation just start whenever you walk up to someone, without a phone call or any scheduling. When the talk is finished, you can just go back to your place.
Switch between small talks
Besides 1-on-1 talk, group talks can also take place naturally in Gather Town. If you are joining a virtual party or virtual seminar session with tens of people, it’s hard to chat with everyone in the same time. People might split up into small groups to chat about different topics. People may also switch between groups to have more fun. So in Gather Town, it makes the small talks to happen in a very natural way. You see people gathering. You can join a group talks, and switch to another by walking to another group of people. I would say this feature is one of the most important point that make Gather Town really special.
How was Gather Town built?
Here are some key components to build a service like Gather Town:
- 2D Rendering – Pixi
- Animation – GSAP
- Chat – Rocket.Chat
- Hosting – Cloudflare
- Analytics – Google Analytics
- Payment – Stripe
How did they do the Marketing?
Gather Town started as a team at Y Combinator, 2019 Summer.
They built up the prototype of Gather Town, and shared it to the public on Hacker News.
Due to it’s advantages on hosting big events, more and more institution try it out and provided Gather Town both revenue and fame. These events include:
- Global Maintainer Summit hosted by GitHub
- Forbes 30 under 30
- Webflow Meetup
Gather Town was introduced on some of the big media, including Wired, The Guardian, TechCrunch, CNN, Bloomberg.
Besides companies using Gather Town as the virtual headquarter, some schools also start creating a virtual campus on Gather Town. CMU, UPenn, Berkeley, UChicago, …etc.
In March 2021, Gather Town raised their series A fundings with $26M led by Sequoia Capital.
What can we learn from Gather Town?
Shaping the future of remote work
Remote work has the pros of saving time on traffics and giving more flexibilities on work. But the cons are increasing the communication barriers and decreasing the efficiency for meetings. Gather Town provides a new way to work together. Will it be a perfect solution for companies?
Stay connected during the pandemic
To fulfill the social needs during the pandemic, Gather Town also provides a new possibilities. It’s fun to try out, and also create a good time for you and the people you love. However, will people came back again and again? Will Gather Town be an important part of everyone’s life? Will the competitors provide better options and drive people away?