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Focal Point: Will VR Usher In Another Golden Age For The Arcade?

Focal Point: Will VR Usher In Another Golden Age For The Arcade?

We ask our industry panel - the brightest and sharpest VR professionals from around the world - one question about the VR industry, business, technology or trending stories every week.

 

Question: With Viveport Arcades already up and running, coin-op legends Sega opening their Akihabara VR attraction last week and Bandai Namco joining the party this summer, will VR usher in another golden age for the arcade?

 

VRcades aid with the normalisation and promotion of the technology to the wider public.
Brynley Gibson

Brynley Gibson, Head Of Studios at Curve Digital 

“VRcades are going to be an important support for the fledgling VR entertainment industry. They provide an easy way for consumers to sample VR at a low investment and this aids with the normalisation and promotion of the technology to the wider public.

“VRcades allow for the presentation of cutting edge experiences that push the technology to its limits which would not be available in the home due to space, cost and kit. Just like with traditional gaming, arcades will give home gaming time to catch up and broaden its market - but much faster.

“As a developer, it’s good to know that if these take off and capture the public imagination then this will be a potential strong revenue stream for us to access in these early days along side created branded and enterprise content for clients. These areas can support VR developers and publishers until the home market reaches a sustainable size.”

It would be hard to imagine the home that could accommodate this Viveport Arcade set-up.
 

The arcade will have a role to play in the coming years.
Thomas Bidaux

Thomas Bidaux, CEO at ICO Partners 

“Arcades experimenting with becoming a channel for VR experiences is a very healthy part of the development of the industry. Just the notion being considered speaks volume to the current challenges that high end VR is facing when it comes to adoption. A slow and steady revolution is more likely than overnight changes in habits and VR arcades have a role to play there.

“Still, there are many challenges that are unique to the arcades. The pricing of the arcades In Japan is expensive, but are they profitable when you consider the volume they take in prime real estate locations, as well the number of staff required to support the users? As often for VR, it still early days and the formula is still evolving, but I believe the arcade will have a role to play in the coming years.”

The first Vive branded VR café in Shenzhen, China.
 

There’s no reason why VR arcades can’t offer the chance to up-sell home hardware just as they did in the 80s and 90s.
Jonathan Wagstaff

Jonathan Wagstaff, Country Manager - UK & IE at CONTEXT 

"By far the biggest issue facing high-end VR right now is cost - and the same could arguably be said of enthusiast PC gaming. Initiatives such as GAME UK's pay-to-play in-store model show that there is definitely demand; particularly from younger consumers.

“Second to cost, exposure to high-end VR is also a big problem. In our own consumer surveys here at CONTEXT, it's clear that the average consumer might have had a brief experience with the Gear VR or similar mobile device but very few have tried the Vive or PS VR.

“Just as arcades made me yearn for a full Star Wars Arcade set-up at home in my salad days, there’s no reason why VR arcades can’t offer the chance to up-sell home hardware just as they did in the 80s and 90s. Given the initial capital expense of setting up something like this, I would expect to see the first VR arcades opening in the Middle East and/or Asia."

GAME UK's pay-to-play in-store model shows there is demand for VR arcades.

The more people that can try VR in the arcades, the faster the industry will grow.
Simon Drake

Simon Drake, Developer Liaison at Steel Media

“The ‘Golden Age of the Arcade’ was so successful because arcades offered gamers an affordable way to play the latest games, removing the barrier to entry of cost. Obviously, this has parallels to the VR industry today.

“Arcades offer a fantastic opportunity for the public to experience high-end VR, especially when backed by the likes of Sega and HTC. It also means that anyone currently creating games and experiences for VR also has another means of monetising and promoting their product. This can only be good for the industry.

“My recent travels in both Japan and China show there’s definitely a market for these arcades. Every time I went, there was a healthy amount of people queuing to try out all of the experiences on offer.

“As we all know, seeing is believing when it comes to VR and the more people that can try it in the arcades, the faster the industry will grow – the home-based consumer market as well.”

Tokyo's VR Park caps off three floors of arcade machines with an entire floor devoted to VR.

Editor

Steve has been a games journalist on and off since the first PlayStation made games ‘cool’, but he’s never forgotten the thrill of finding a Space Invaders machine in the wild. Neuromancer is one of his favourite books and The Matrix is one of his favourite movies, so he’s been ready for VR all his life.

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