Location-Based VR in 2020
The time has come to look at Location-Based VR for your venue. Here is our guide to helping decide which VR experiences are best for your entertainment center.
The “Next Big Thing” is finally here.
Virtual Reality has been on the fringe of consumer adoption for many years, even in-home gaming and entertainment, but it was clear at IAAPA 2019 that this next decade will see Virtual Reality go mainstream. This creates many opportunities, along with many pitfalls, for FEC and arcade owners. A few pioneering games proved virtual reality was possible for mainstream out-of-home entertainment. Games like Omni Arena, Hologate and LAI Games’ own Virtual Rabbids showed the industry that virtual reality was not only possible but extremely profitable.
Location-based VR continues to grow and demonstrate the technology’s value within our industry. VR is a unique platform that takes games and experiences to a whole new level, transporting us to amazing new worlds, and turning what was traditionally “screen time” into a lived experience.
These experiences are resonating with players and changing the landscape of arcade gaming. We’re at the point of VR products moving from a “nice to have,” to the new norm for modern entertainment experiences.
Table of Contents
- Opportunities that Location-Based VR brings
- Choosing the best VR options for your venue
- Final Thoughts
Opportunities that Location-based VR brings
#1 – Attracting a new audience
When speaking with the average person on the street, it’s amazing how surprised many are to hear the modern arcade concept is alive and well. While the industry as a whole has not suffered any significant downturn over the last few decades, it feels as if we’re in a renaissance, where things are continuing to develop at an extremely fast pace. As an FEC or arcade owner, it’s an exciting notion when you consider the number of potential customers out there, waiting to be drawn in. VR will undoubtedly continue to be a catalyst for this growth, providing people with a social, engaging and relatively cheap form of entertainment that they can’t get anywhere else.
#2 – Increasing the spend of your existing customers
New customers are great, but don’t look past the low-hanging fruit right in front of you. In order to stay relevant with existing customers, entertainment centers have to innovate and offer new experiences, and VR brings a whole new level of excitement to the customer journey. Virtual Reality arcade games provide a truly transportive experience, giving them a reason to keep returning, with a high likelihood they’ll bring in a new audience with them!
#3 – Providing people with their first VR experience
Consumer VR still represents a high barrier to entry for most people. The cost of HMD and PC hardware coupled with an expanding and fragmented marketplace makes getting into VR complex and expensive.
“This represents a strong value proposition for our industry, and highly polished and accessible VR experiences like Virtual Rabbids appeal to an audience of consumers beyond that of a traditional FEC product,” notes Shannon Perell, VP of Product Development at LAI Games.
As a result of the costly and complex setup of home systems it’s a common trend for most people’s first VR experience to take place at their local FEC or arcade.
#4 – Higher profits
When you offer a truly fun and unique experience, why discount?
As the team at Virtuix explains in this great article about Marketing your VR attractions, “In the FEC business, new attractions have a track record of cannibalizing revenue from existing attractions, resulting in a minimal net revenue gain. In contrast, well-managed VR attractions entice your customers to spend more money (money they wouldn’t otherwise spend).”
Customers expect exceptional and memorable experience and are willing to pay for it. Couple that with an unattended VR attraction with a small footprint and a high throughput like Virtual Rabbids, and the revenue potential is staggering.
#5 – Creating an engaging social experience
Humans are social creatures, and one of the primary reasons FECs are seeing an upswing in customer traffic is people seeking more socially rewarding experiences instead of “things”. This trend is what’s been dubbed “The Experience Economy,” and it resonates especially well with millennials.
“People go out to be with friends or have fun as a family. The social aspect of games is really important,” says our own Marketing Manager Allison Timberlake. “When two to four people can experience a game or attraction together, it makes it much more fun, especially if the game appeals to many generations.”
Virtual Reality has enabled us to provide a rich social experience and level of wow-factor that, up until now, had rarely been experienced outside a full-scale theme park. Products like Virtual Rabbids made “VR for every venue” truly possible, providing operators with the opportunity to deliver memorable and engaging social experiences to an incredibly wide audience of consumers that can’t get the same experience anywhere else.
With broad demographic appeal, increasingly diverse offerings, and a strong consumer appetite for social experiences that provide new and novel reasons to get out of the house, it’s clear that Virtual Reality holds a huge potential in the Experience Economy, and that means big business for FECs.
According to Forbes, “This sector of the industry [Location-based VR] is going from strength to strength because of the unique, shared entertainment it offers—it’s the next generation of laser tag—a differentiated, exciting experience that brings people together for memorable moments.”
#6 – Standing out from the competition
Last, but not least, another important reason why you should consider introducing Virtual Reality to your business is to stand out from other entertainment options consumers have available to them. The modern arcade is a relatively cheap form of entertainment compared to many other options consumers have available to them. Make sure you’re marketing your FEC appropriately, and pull people into your venue.
As Bob Cooney, location-based VR expert points out, “There are dozens of great VR products on the market today, and more coming every quarter. One advantage of this VR wave is the multitude of opportunities to differentiate from your competition.”
Choosing the Best VR Options for Your Venue
It’s the game that generates the highest revenue reports, right?
Well, not really. Revenue reports are a great metric when a game doesn’t have any historical data (ie it’s a brand-new game), but let’s be realistic, there is really no way to tell if the numbers a manufacturer is presenting are real. Ask your colleagues, business partners, and most of all, people who have operated these experiences instead. You’ll quickly find your answers. A solid VR game should have more than enough testimonials to back its credibility.
The different categories of VR games
There are a multitude of VR options available in the marketplace right now, but without a framework for exploring the alternatives for hardware, customer experience, square footage requirements, throughput, and cost, it can be overwhelming.
In his Strategic Guide to Buying Location-Based VR Attractions, Bob Cooney segments the market into 5 different categories: Arcade VR for 1-2 Players, Arcade Multiplayer, Arena Scale, Multisensory and VR Escape Rooms.
Arcade VR for 1-2 Players
1 and 2 player arcade VR includes single-player products such as Total Recoil from Raydon, Leo from VR LEO as well as 2-player motion simulators and rides such us our own two-seat attendant-free Virtual Rabbids: The Big Ride.
As Bob explains, “[In Arcade Single Player VR] You have replaced the LCD monitor from a traditional arcade game with a 3D head-mounted display (HMD), or VR goggles as some people call them. This makes the experience more immersive, more believable, and often more fun for the player.”
2-player motion simulators and rides operate as a traditional coin-op or card-operated amusement game and are the most accessible form of VR for guests. Whether you’re 7 years old or 77 years old, you can jump on these rides and have a great time. They don’t require any prior technical experience with virtual reality. It’s just sit down, strap in and hold on!
This category includes compact VR systems like Hologate and Omni Arena from Virtuix just to name a few. Up to four people can play in a small enclosure (less than 400 square feet) and players can either be tethered to the computer or can wear a backpack PC.
“All these companies offer small footprint attractions with an array of games, so they work with most locations. You’ll need someone on the staff to manage them in order to maximize full earnings potential,” Says Betson’s Britannie Betti.
These solutions employ more sophisticated tracking technology and take up much more space. Arena scale setups generally range from 1000 up to 4000 square feet, with between 6 and 20 players inside the experience together. Some of these attractions employ full-body tracking, which can make them highly social, as players can actually touch each other in the real and virtual world.
Zero Latency, VR Studios, True VR, Mass VR, and Neurogaming are examples of these types of free-roam virtual reality entertainment experiences.
Here we find solutions such as The Void, Nomadic, Dreamscape, and Tyffon, which according to Bob, “Take the immersion to the ultimate level by adding environmental effects and haptic feedback. The players feel wind, heat, and vibration. Some use scents to make the environments even more believable. These experiences are shorter, but the multisensory impact enables deep immersion much more quickly.”
VR Escape Rooms
VR escape rooms provide longer experiences, ranging anywhere from 30-60 minutes and are more story-driven than most of the shooting games or VR rides, containing a combination of puzzles and actions that must be completed. They are generally room-scale (10×10sq ft) HTC Vive booths, with up to four linked for a multiplayer experience.
Some examples of VR escape room experiences are the Assassin’s Creed universe created by Ubisoft and Eclipse by BackLight.
For more in-depth information about each one of these VR solutions, download Bob Cooney’s Strategic Guide to Buying VR Attractions here.
Whatever doubt may have once existed about the future of Location-Based VR, it has long since been replaced by a sense of growing optimism. Every venue will be different for what VR solutions will be profitable and realistic. Think about your audience and the opportunities you have to maximize revenue per square foot.
As Britannie Betti concludes, “There is tremendous interest in VR but it’s not a one size fits all, so you need to work with your operator or distributor to figure out the best fit for your location. Space is a premium in any location so it’s important that any equipment you put on the floor is either directly maximizing earning per square foot and/or bringing customers into your location.”
As a final tip, she adds, “One key to successful VR attractions is signage and/or staff that clearly communicates what the attraction is and the value proposition. I’ve seen too many examples of VR equipment that is sitting in the middle of an FEC and customers have no idea what it does or how much it costs. Having your staff educated on the product will pay huge dividends.”