Location-based entertainment venues are adding VR attractions at a staggering pace. For the last several years, VR was on the pre-chasm curve of the crossing the chasm model, with mostly Innovators and Early Adopters diving into this third wave of virtual reality attractions. At the annual IAAPA show last year in Orlando, there were over 65 virtual reality products on display. Large operators like Dave and Busters rolled out VR to all their locations. Operators have shifted from “Should I have VR” to “What VR should I have?” Selected the best VR attraction for your business is not as easy as it might seem. Some operators are just buying what everyone else is. There was a saying in the IT world, “Nobody gets fired for buying IBM.” There’s a comfort factor in going with the crowd.
But that’s leaving a fantastic opportunity to differentiate your business from everyone else’s. While the selection process can be daunting, with so much innovation happening in the VR space, this is the best time ever to differentiate your operation with unique attractions. To help you decide, I’ve created an evaluation model that uses a 360-degree approach to narrow down your options.
Operators need to consider their mindsets, the capabilities of their organization, the type of attractions, and the physical attributes of their business. But the thing I see most ignored by location-based entertainment venues is the customer.
Many operators look at demographics when choosing a VR solution. They focus on age and gender, looking for family-friendly options, or something that will attract millennials. But what they seem never to consider is the context of the customer when they walk in the door. What might they expect to see? What might they be “in the mood for.” What will make sense, and not seem out of place?
A great example of this is VR in karting centers. The current high-end indoor karting craze is rife with opportunities to add VR. They have plenty of space, and long wait times on weekends, sometimes stretching to 3-hours. K1 Speed, Intel, and BlackTrax tested a VR Karting experience in Gardena, CA. Other companies have been experimenting with AR on karts to add gamification to the experience, trying to create Mario Kart in real life. Does a go-kart traveling at 60 MPH in a high-intensity race get better when you add the distraction of VR or AR? And are you going to increase the price of the race to offset the cost of deployment and maintenance? What about the slower throughput? Most karting centers already run 2-hour waits during peak times. This integration of VR is an example of shiny-object product design driven by FOMO but not economics.
What makes more sense is looking at the mindset of the customers that come to race. I’ve studied the arcade game earnings at a few karting centers, and competitive games almost always outperformed. Air hockey, two-player basketball toss, and even Skee-ball earned more than single-player arcade games that would be the top-earning machines at a regular FEC. The success of these types of games speaks to the competitive nature of people who go to race karts.
Racers enter a karting center in a competitive mindset. They’re either competing against friends, the track, the other racers, or their own best time. Here, offering a competitive VR attraction creates the perfect consumer fit.
Karting operators should be passing on the family-friendly cooperative VR titles for the newer competitive systems and esports platforms. At the high-end, Zero Latency’s Sol Raiders is an excellent player-vs-player game for locations with hundreds of thousands to invest and over 2000 square feet of space. It offers a player database that tracks scores and statistics over the lifetime of the player. Neurogaming also makes a high-end system called Polygon that fits in a 1000 square foot space and incorporates esports streaming video capability.
VRstudios has a new flexible free roam system that can fit in multi-purpose spaces like meeting rooms. It comes with a full suite of esports titles and supports video streaming to Twitch and YouTube. They even offer a shoutcasting console to run live competitions with play-by-play announcers to ramp up the excitement level. (If you don’t know what shoutcasting is, click the link and watch this video.)
OmniArena from Virtuix is a compact VR esports platform with continuous tournaments run by the company. Operators need not do anything but put up some posters promoting the tournaments. They’re offering $50K in prizes sponsored by HTC and HP with contests always ongoing.
There are other competitive VR products out there and more popping up each quarter.
If you’re running a location-based entertainment center and want to integrate VR in a way that makes sense to your customers, engages your staff, fits in your space, and returns your investment, drop me a line. I have a new 6-month executive mentoring program for operators wanting to take a more strategic approach to VR. It’s limited to 10 companies, so if you’re interested, fill out this quick 60-second survey, and we can set up a time to talk.