VR at an arcade near you

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Virtual Reality is going mainstream. With millions of dollars poured into the industry, the arrival of VR headsets and the development of motion platforms, VR companies are turning to the gaming arcade concept to introduce consumers to VR and start the technology off on the road to commercialisation.

It’s quite obvious why the arcade concept is probably the right one for VR. First, for a truly immersive experience headsets like Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive Pre are the ideal tools, but probably too pricy for most people. Secondly, in order to be able to move around in virtual reality while wearing a headset, a dedicated VR space is ideal, something most people won’t have at home. Also, it’s unlikely that individuals will invest in dedicated treadmills to use at home, yet they are essential for immersive experiences.

That means that VR companies must come up with a solution that will put VR in the hands of paying customers. VR arcades in different guises seem to be the answer.

In Melbourne, Australia, VR Insanity bills itself as the world’s first virtual reality arcade. VR Insanity offers multi player VR video gaming. The hi-tech video game company lets customers team up with friends to fight the enemy in virtual reality.

On January 23 at the 2016 VRLA Winter Expo in Los Angeles Swedish video game studio, Starbreeze, announced that it plans to open a VR arcade hall in Los Angeles later this year. Called Project StarCade, the new VR initiative was conceived to showcase the company’s high-resolution StarVR headset with Overkill's The Walking Dead VR as the first feature experience.

The most ambitious plan for immersive virtual reality experiences comes from Ken Bretschneider of The Void. He plans to build Virtual Entertainment Centres (VECs) in cities throughout North and South America, Asia, Europe and Australia. The first VOID gaming centre will be in Salt Lake City and will consist of seven 60′x60′ foot gaming pods where groups of up to ten can interact and compete. The Void is developing its own technology including the headsets, body tracking system and haptics. Bretschneider plans to have new experiences for customers every three months.

Seattle-based VRstudios was the first company in the VR industry to deploy a virtual reality system in an entertainment complex. The company’s entertainment and gaming division, VRcade®, launched the world's first wireless, full-motion virtual reality system at Dave & Buster's flagship location in Milpitas, California in July 2015. The installations vary from 15′x15′ to 150′x75′ and visitors can explore and interact wirelessly in virtual environments.