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The Virtual Arena: The Explosion of the VR Arcade

The Virtual ArenaIn this latest of my regular columns, I turn the spotlight regarding virtual reality’s (VR’s) baptism of fire outside of its expected home setting, and reveal the three main areas of public-space entertainment application of this emerging technology. Following on from the previous feature giving an overview of the aspects of the Digital Out-of-Home Entertainment (DOE) VR scene (Growth of Out-of-Home VR Entertainment, which can be found here) – we dial down into the detail, and supply a view of the key players in the sector.

The first sector we are covering has been named ‘VR Arcade’, (though we are also seeing the term “VR Park”, coined in Asia). This sector is itself split into two main groups with consumer VR hardware deployed into out-of-home establishments, as well as other operators deploying dedicated VR game platforms, placed in either pop-up or specialized retail units.

Why VR Arcade is a thing?

As seen with the previous phase of VR adoption back in the 90’s, there is a strong appetite by an undecided audience to “try before they buy”, a need to have a dedicated approach to offer a chance to experience VR, without the risk of purchasing expensive equipment has proven essential. Sadly, due to various political posturing’s, the support of the DOE application for VR was ignored by some executives, favouring an approach to sign ill thought-out agreements with retail chains to set-up hastily conceived demonstration areas, as seen at Best Buy and other chains.

Attempts were made to side-line the possibility of VR being a commercial entertainment. However, the market has suddenly exploded supporting an audience keen to try VR for themselves – but concerned by the cost of entry, technical limitations, and value of available content. So has been born over a number of territories various approaches towards creating a space for paying customers to experience VR. Much of this fuelled by the early DK1 and DK2public demonstrations that started the ball rolling in the greater recognition of the technology.

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