You may soon see a VR arcade at a mall location near you.
It has been over a year since we first experienced The VOID’s VR theme park in Utah. Being one of the first media outlets to actually demo at the facility, we weren’t expecting much from the early prototype center. But after walking out of The VOID, our minds were blown away.
We immediately saw how entertainment centers like The VOID can not only provide more access to the often cost-prohibitive immersive technology, but also help create an entirely new industry of real-life VR arcades that consumers will seek out to experience with groups of friends on a Friday night.
It would seem that the trend of VR entertainment centers and arcades is only gaining momentum – and this is clearly just the beginning. Dave and Buster’s began testing VR games in one of their full-service restaurants last year and Bandai Namco recently opened up their own VR arcade in Tokyo. In the first half of this year, annoucements have been coming in heavy, with Sega planning to bring a multiplayer VR arcade to Japan, Acer and Starbreeze partnering up to open their first arcade in Los Angeles sometime this year and The VOID opening their Times Square Ghostbusters experience July 1st.
Bringing VR Arcades to the Mall
With companies diving in to build out their own facilities as VR entertainment centers, there is one place we haven’t seen much of yet in the states. That is, one of America’s favorite pastimes – the shopping mall.
In the city of Orem, Utah, a VR arcade has just opened for business, maybe giving us a first glimpse at what these arcades may look like in malls around the country.
The new VR arcade in University Mall is rightfully called VR Junkies, letting you blast away zombies in Brookhaven Experiment or play a few rounds of mini golf in Cloudlands on the HTC Vive. The mall retail location opened its doors this past weekend. Owners Mckay Christensen and Joshua Hintze, who were both working as engineers before this latest endeavor, told VRScout that there were lines of up to 40 minutes over the weekend with customers waiting to get some immersive play time.
The VR Junkies space is currently 5,000 square feet, but only 2,500 of it is being used for the VR arcade, while Christensen and Hintze patiently wait for additional VR headset systems to arrive. The retail space has three HTC Vives set up, showcasing six different VR experiences, as well as Gear VR headsets and Cardboard viewers that customers can take home with them.
If you visit the VR Junkies arcade, you can expect to fork over about $5-10 for the first 5-10 minutes, $25 for half an hour and $45 for a full hour. Since pricing for VR arcade time is such a new concept, it’s hard to say what the optimal cost per hour would be, comments Hintze. But considering the demand so far, this might be a price consumers are willing to spend to get their hands on the latest tech.
Christensen and Hintze are keeping above board as well on content, making sure to license the VR content from developers. With VR arcades being such a new thing, interestingly enough, even the developers had little idea how to price their VR content for a pay per hour type arcade business model. According to the founders though, the developers are extremely excited about the potential, with some even making special arcade versions of their games to stream line the customer experience.
The Future of VR Arcades
The duo also has their eyes set on building a franchise model out of the business, hoping to assist other entrepreneurs through the hurdles of VR content licensing and working to set them up with VR Junkies’ custom VR time tracking system.
VR Junkies also believes there is big business in corporate events and mobile events like birthday parties, where demoing VR content can be a team-building or more social experience.
Only time will tell whether the trend of VR arcades and “pay to play” VR will catch on. But considering that many consumers will most likely want to try VR before they invest in a system, may not have a large enough space at home for room-scale, or just can’t afford purchasing high-end VR hardware, we can only expect those lines to get longer as more and more tell their friends how amazing VR is.
Let us know if you’ve seen any VR arcades in your town. Leave a comment below.