Virtual Reality (VR) is the hottest topic in the entertainment industry right now, and for good reason. Today’s technology is significantly better than the options 5-10 years ago; the graphics are more immersive and the VR platforms appeal to audiences of all ages. Right now there are multiple attractions for family entertainment center (FEC) operators to choose from. In fact, our company entered the VR market by partnering with Hologate to bring this multiplayer attraction to North America.
As proven by the popularity of VR at the most recent IAAPA Attractions Expo, this is an exciting time for this technology. “With VR being the next emerging technology item this year, we wanted to make sure we were ahead of the curve on bringing it to our fun center,” commented Jim Saxe, owner of Putt-Putt FunHouse in Webster, TX.
But what’s the best option for existing entertainment centers? And how can FEC operators maximize the attraction’s success? This is what we’ll discuss in this article.
What is Virtual Reality?
First, let’s define VR and look at the current marketplace. An experience is considered virtual reality when the player uses a headset to enter a completely digital world; they don’t see any of their surroundings. They are immersed in the digital environment of the game. The VR options on the market exist on two ends of a spectrum: free roam and arcade. Free roam is where players are completely un-tethered and they have the ability to freely walk around an “arena” during the game. On the other hand, arcade is much smaller and players don’t have the ability to move around at all.
Attractions exist all along this spectrum; some are at the extreme ends, while others live somewhere in between. We’re painting with a broad brush here, but it’s the easiest way to define these options. For reference, a platform like Hologate is considered a hybrid approach between models like Zero Latency for free roam, and Unis for arcade.
Factors to Consider
Next, consider the most important factors of any attraction: customer experience, square footage requirements, throughput, and cost. You have to find the balance that makes sense for you. While there’s no “right” answer, here’s a good rule of thumb: you need to deliver an amazing experience that can actually fit in your center, and has a throughput and investment cost that delivers a solid ROI.
It’s also important to consider where this attraction will go in your center. We recommend placing it out in the open; in the front of your arcade or lobby where all the guests can see it. Some operators want to put a VR attraction behind walls in another room. But this hampers your ability to sell the game. When your attraction is out in the open, guests see players having a great time, and then those guests want to play too. If customers can see it, they’ll buy it.
This has been the case for Eddie Hamann, Managing Member of Andretti Entertainment. They bought the Hologate VR attraction for their Orlando location and put it in the front of the arcade, where guests see it as soon as they walk in the door. “We installed the attraction the day after IAAPA ended and immediately it was a hit,” said Hamann. “Guests continue to rave about the experience.”
In addition, Hamann also recommends “priming the pump.” His facility usually starts getting really busy around 5:00pm. At this time, he sends 4 of his employees over to play Hologate together. During the 5 minute game, guests surround the attraction to catch all the excitement. When the game ends, all the guests watching want to play so they get in line. At that point, Hamann has a queue of people for the rest of the night. This simple trick helped him generate significantly more revenue.
Lastly, don’t forget about exclusivity of content. Entertainment operators will always have to fight in-home entertainment. You can’t expect to succeed if you offer games that consumers can get at home. Instead, make sure the VR platform you choose has exclusive content that’s only available on that platform. This is something that Hologate, Zero Latency, and others offer.
This is the perfect time to add a virtual reality experience to your facility. But you can’t just pick a VR platform at random and expect to succeed. You need to know your own business and consider the factors in this article to find the best fit for you.