One thing I hear quite often from those heavily involved within the virtual reality space is that arcades centered around VR will likely never take off due to the simple fact that anyone can go out and purchase their own headset, thus turning their living room into an arcade itself. While I tend to agree with the ideas behind this philosophy, what these individuals fail to grasp is that virtual reality isn’t only about a $800 headset. Initially the headset will do just fine, immersing gamers and experience-seekers in amazing new environments, but eventually we all will seek much more in terms of immersion.
While video game arcades slowly have died out over the last decade, thanks in part to at-home multiplayer gaming, which can provide nearly the same thrills, the entire industry may be about to get reinvigorate by this wave of virtual reality that has begun to sweep over the gaming community. The new arcades, or perhaps it’s better to call them theme parks, will make virtual reality a multi-sensory phenomenon which will ignite new business models centered around this up and coming technology. While there may be similarities to traditional video game arcades, these businesses will require much more uptake, larger facilities and likely additional staff on duty.
Instead of relying on stationary gamers standing at arcade tables, VR arcades will merge the physical arena with that of the virtual, presenting experiences, which one could have never imagined only a few short years ago. One such arcade / theme park which is currently in a beta phase is located in Lindon, Utah, and called The Void. The Void straps users into a full body suit, along with a high-powered VR headset and then places them into a large room with obstacles. While the obstacles are physically within the room, the VR content that the user is immersed in is developed specifically for this room, transforming a wall or a pillar into a mountain or a tree for instance. The arcade, referred to by the company as a VEC or Virtual Entertainment Center, is able to rewrite the rules on gaming in a way which gets children and adults up off of the couch and out of their homes, and pits them against virtual enemies in an action-packed thrill which will take their breath away, from the incredible enjoyment of this new gaming experience, but also form physical exhaustion.
The Void is just one of many such theme parks which likely will be sprouting up across the globe over the coming months and years ahead. It will be interesting to see what new gaming concepts come out of the merger between the physical and virtual worlds, and what other business models will eventually come about. Have you had a chance to partake in any such VR gaming experience? Let us know in the VR Arcade / Theme Park forum on VRTalk.com. Check out the promotional video clip from The Void below: