Megabots, a startup that was dedicated to bringing behemoth battle-robot entertainment to the masses, is selling off its assets before filing for bankruptcy.
On Tuesday, Megabots released a YouTube video advertising the sale of one of its most visible assets — the 15-ton Eagle Prime battle mech – and explaining why the company had to call it quits.
When the company was founded in 2014, the cofounders envisioned creating a new form of sport where giant human-piloted robots duelled in deathmatches, prompting news outlets to opine that this could be the “next billion dollar sports league.” In July 2015, Megabots had their first challenger — Japanese robotics company Suidobashi Heavy Industries’s 4,082kg battle bot, Kurata.
The much-anticipated fight finally took place in October of 2017, raising hopes for an international league of warrior machines. “I believe that the MegaBots league that we’re building will become one of the top three sports in the world within 10 years in terms of global audience, revenue and engagement,” Megabots co-founder Brinkley Warren told CNBC at the time. The revelation that the fight was staged and edited together from multiple bouts detracted from the company’s ability to enjoy its victory.
But, as Megabot co-founder Matt Oehrlein explained in the latest YouTube video, the sport hasn’t taken hold quite the way he had anticipated. “We’re out of money again,” Oehrlein said. “I have not been able to make this profitable,” adding that Megabots took out a loan a couple of years ago and hasn’t been able to make interest payments anymore. So the company has decided to sell off the company assets and file for bankruptcy.
According to Oehrlein the money that Megabots has brought in from appearances, rides and merchandise sales over the last year and a half have not been enough to cover interest payments on the loan, warehouse rent, health insurance, repairs and maintenance, and his own salary.
Additionally, Oehrlein believes there isn’t enough consumer interest to sustain the sport. He points out that the USA vs Japan video garnered about 5 million views on YouTube in the first two weeks, while the USA vs Canada video released in April of this year has only had 25,000 views in that same amount of time. “I think that is a pretty clear sign that there’s no longer an appetite — or a mass market appetite — for nation-on-nation giant robot fights,” Oehrlein said in the video.
But he still has hope for the future of the sport. “That doesn’t mean it can’t be done. It just means that I was not able to do it,” Oehrlein said, “I’m totally happy to pass the torch.”
He’s attempting to pass that torch through an eBay auction of Eagle Prime. The listing describes it as a “15-ton robot” that is “powered by a 430 horsepower LS3 V8 Engine” that’s used in a Chevrolet corvette. It’s 3.50 metres tall when sitting and about 4.88m-tall standing up. The bidding started at $1.50 but it currently has nearly 50 bids and the price has surpassed $74,050.
Eagle Prime currently lives in Oakland, California. Oehrlein estimates shipping cost to west coast destination is about $5,924, and about $25,177 for the east coast. Overseas shipping, he said, will be about $74,050.
Oehrlein also broke down what the lucky winner may be able to make with the robot, sharing that Megabots’ machines usually make $10,000 from home shows and up to $220,000 from corporate clients to perform at music festivals and trade shows. It cost the company around $6,000 to $52,000 to transport a battle bot domestically.
“I really do think somebody’s going to figure out this giant-robots-as-live-entertainment thing,” Oehrlein said.“It’s entirely possible that whoever wins this auction has enough business skills to take this and run with it and turn it into the crazy, awesome thing that it deserves to be.”