VR IN ENTERTAINMENT: HOW JAPAN IS EARNING BILLIONS ON VR ARCADES
One second you are here standing on a solid floor being able to control your reactions and emotions. And the next second — you are in total darkness surrounded by zombies, scared and trembling. Or on the roof of a 500-meter-high skyscraper.
Yes, you can tell your brain that «It’s just virtual reality gaming». But the part of the brain responsible for fear (which scientists often call «a reptilian complex« because of its age) doesn’t listen to any rational arguments. It feels real.
«Flight or fight!» it starts telling you, and you start running, fighting, jumping, protecting your friends from zombies, and doing whatever it takes to save your life and the lives of the people you love.
Welcome to a virtual reality arcade, the place in which you can savor VR technology to the fullest and share it with the people you love the most. Because VR arcades are all about experiencing strong emotions and sharing them with others.
So what is VR? It’s an overwhelming experience first of all.
People always needed VR
Just take a look at Sensorama, one of the first VR apps for entertainment. This complex machine was created in the 1950s, and even then it could provide users with an incredible level of sensory immersion.
Apart from 3D images, users could hear the sound and felt little tickling. More than that, the machine had the tracks for wind and aromas.
There were 4 films available for Sensorama users: they could try themselves by driving a helicopter, a go-kart, a bicycle, and a motorbike.
And there was the 5th film which seemed to have the biggest marketing success. In this film, visitors could see a seducing belly dancer whose perfume was sensible when she approached the viewer (there was a cheap perfume used inside the machine for this purpose).
It looks like the creator of Sensorama knew all about virtual reality application long before other people figured out that they needed it.
Now, when Facebook is competing with HTC to launch the best head-mounted display you can use at home, and China building a huge VR arcade, there is no doubt that people need VR for entertainment.
Why do people need virtual reality arcades anyway? I’ve come up with THREE BASIC REASONS after the analysis of this topic:
1. Inside the virtual reality arcade, it is possible to forget about the real world completely because you are totally isolated from it. Sometimes we all want to escape the reality, that’s why most people like sleeping so much or reading huge novels. In VR arcade, which is itself an isolated place, you can dive into the new world completely. Luckily, in a company of friends.
2. Virtual reality gaming stimulates the release of a real neurochemical cocktail of neurotransmitters. It includes dopamine, serotonin, norepinephrine, endorphin, anandamide which make gamers feel euphoric, creative, and motivated. It also creates the sense of flow or peak productivity. No wonder so many companies choose to train their employees in VR. In the research conducted by DARPA, snipers managed to improve their new target acquisition skills by 230 percent when performing in the state of flow. What is VR? Your body thinks it’s joy and satisfaction.
3. Virtual reality is the media in which you actually become a participant due to the sense of full embodiment. Unlike TV or habitual video games, VR stimulates you to take an active part and explore, react rapidly, and take risks. And move, which is even more important. When you’re shooting from a bow, you are actually shooting using both hands and legs, and that’s the key difference of VR games from traditional video games.
Virtual Reality Arcades Going Mainstream in Asia
Virtual Reality arcades appear all over China, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea, and Japan. But I would say that Japan is something different. The analysis of the popularity of VR arcades in this country can give you the general idea why VR is gaining that much hype all over the world.
First, Japan is the country which praises gamers and geeks.
Second, the economy of the country was built on the basis of technological progress. That’s why Japan embraces all innovations with huge enthusiasm. However, neither of these reasons can explain the popularity of VR arcades in Japan. The main reason and the key to the success of VR arcades is social interaction.
Remember that time we killed 200 vampires together?
VR arcades in Japan encourage gamers to bring friends and family members, that can be one of the most beneficial virtual reality applications by the way. You can share experience and emotions, the ability you lack when playing a video game.
The thing is, in virtual reality, you are exposed to exactly the same stimuli interpreted by your brain as the same reality. Isn’t it wonderful to finally see the world through the same eyes ( = VR goggles)?
So Japan is now the pioneer of location-based entertainment according to CNN because it’s profitable to open a 350-square-meter VR arcade there and attract around 50.000 visitors who are not even geeks.
Will Europe and North America Follow?
VR arcades business is slow in the Western world, it looks like Westerns need more time to catch up. But they are already making progress: Canada, the USA, Britain, France. For instance, there are three new places of CTRL V opened in Canada turning Canada into the center of VR/AR/MR industry. This year the company aims to quadruple the number of venues.
Investors also started paying more attention to VR startups. DreamWorks Animation managed to raise $9.5 million. And the first Virtual World Arcade conference was conducted for the first time in the USA.
But the Western market is still not weighing all the pros and cons of VR gaming and VR arcades in particular. While the Western world does not doubt that VR or AR has useful applications in medicine, education, retail and real estate, VR arcades still lack something to become a hit.
Maybe the price for entrance is too high. However, IMAX has managed to reduce the costs for virtual reality gaming using HTC Vive experiences for its centers. So just google «VR arcades near me» and you’ll be surprised.
What Does It Take to Open a VR Arcade?
VR arcades are popular not only because they provide users with an incredible level of social interaction and emotional cocktail, but because they are impossible to recreate at home.
Forbes claims that shopping malls are the most comfortable environment for opening a location-based entertainment. It’s crowded with families who have bought all the unnecessary stuff and feel bored. And here is a VR arcade.
To play VR video games at home, you will need $2000 for VR equipment, a safe location (not it’s unlikely that you will be able to play in your apartment) and another VR system. To share emotions. Which makes common VR gaming almost impossible. So lack of equipment and its price will serve as an impetus for VR arcade industry development.
So what does it take to open a VR arcade?
Good Location. The shopping mall will work the best, that’s for sure. A bit crowded and empty place will also be effective. The place must be big enough to accommodate students` gangs and families with 3 children.
Futuristic vision. How will this arcade be different from other centers?
Excellent Connectivity. Rely on high-speed broadband connection and stay away from Wifi.
Modern VR arcade equipment is what actually draws the attention of users. You will need VR headsets (the choice is all about HTC Vive vs Oculus Rift), VR controllers, computers compatible with VR HMDs, headsets, charging and docking stations. If you can impress your visitors with swings or bikes, just do it.
So VR arcades have already become the part of the entertainment sector in Asia. Chinese and Japanese youngsters would rather spend time in VR arcades (or karaoke, the eternal mystery for me) than in pubs. Because you can talk in pubs, yes, you can drink in the pubs, you can have fun. But you can’t interact and cooperate. While emotional engagement and common activity are what brings people closer. Especially in the state of absolute happiness.
If you didn’t try VR gaming in one of the best VR arcades, well… what can I tell you? Can I explain to you that Game of Thrones is a stunning series if you have never seen it? How can I prove you that «petite Fromage de chevre» is probably the most delicious cheese in France if you have never tried it? Just go and try it. Don’t read all that.
If you are thinking about entering an entertainment niche, well, virtual reality arcades are the perfect choice
People needed more immersive, more capturing means of entertainment even 60 years ago when they watched a virtual belly dancer and tried to capture her elusive perfume. Today they need immersive VR arcades even more because people need more emotions, more interaction, and more high-quality experience.