VRcade Prepares For Broader Location-Based VR Adoption

by Laura Mingail • November 30th, 2017
An exclusive look at VRcade's newest multiplayer virtual world and plans to make it easier and more profitable for operators to bring VR to their locations.

VRstudios is focused on the future of location-based entertainment. Having alreadydeveloped customized VR experiences for the likes of Universal Orlando and Cedar Fair’s Knott’s Berry Farm, the company starts rolling out its own2,400 square foot free-roam multiplayer VRcade system to locationsin the United States, Canada and Latin America in early 2018.

Terminal 17 will be the first adventure that players will be able to get into at these locations. Check out the new trailer:

I had the opportunity to play Terminal 17, and learn more about how VRstudios is planning to expand VRcade locations and experiences, from CEO Kevin Vitale, and Vice President, Creative Development, Chanel Summers.

Inside Terminal 17

Terminal 17 is a slick, engaging sci-fi blaster adventure, split into two fifteen-minute episodes that can be experienced separately or sequentially by up to eight players at once. If less than eight players are in the experience, the content dynamically scales the alien enemies so that the challenge is still achievable.

Summers describes Terminal 17 as a form of “co-opetition” since players are challenged to work together to overcome obstacles, while also competing against each other for the highest score.

Episode 1 takes players through Terminal 17’s upper levels, as the Team is challenged to power-on the facility, while shooting away enemy bugs, exploring a maze, passing through a deadly obstacle course, using mechanics to activate the communications generator and more. Episode 2 takes players to Terminal 17’s lower levels where players must work together to rescue a character, crack a code, and fight off the boss alien bug from destroying the base. It’s no surprise that a third episode is “definitely an option”according to Vitale. Having more episodes allows consumers to spend more time in a certain environment when they visit VRcade-powered locations – they can have a 15, 30, and possibly soon a 45-minute experience with just the Terminal 17 world alone.

VRstudios aims to make content that is entertaining for a wide demographic, and Summers highlighted that they did extensive testing with Terminal 17 to ensure that the experiences were both fun, and easy to understand how to play. With amusement games, people want to be able to “get in, have a good time, and get out,” according to Summers. They did play testing and exit surveys with hundreds of people ranging in age from 13 to their early 80s, analyzing the commonalities in their feedback and tweaking the content accordingly. Vitale mentioned that the inputs from their testing offered both technical and narrative learnings.

Model for Expansion

I met Vitale and Summers at the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA) Expo in Orlando this November. It became apparent thatall types of attractionowners from around the world are increasingly awareof the value of integrating VR into their locations, given the relatively lower price than other amusement rides and games. VR also can offer many different experiences in the same setup and generates revenue regardless of weather.

While the VR industry searches for the ‘killer app’ to accelerate consumer adoption of VR, Vitale believes that the killer app is in fact turnkey LBE [location-based entertainment] VR. VRstudios’ standard model is to sell a full-package solution to venue operators, including commercial-grade hardware that brings their large-format free-roam VR concept to life. The revenue share model for VRcade Arena covers licensing content and the Attraction Management Platform, AMP. The idea is that expansion can happen rapidly as the upfront costs are covered by operator customers, and ongoing revenue is shared.

The VRcade cloud and server-based AMP is positioned to add value to the overall package for operators. Operators can easily launch players into the experience and track metrics including duration of play and individual scores. In the future, VRcade can add features to AMP allowing operators to change skill-levels and obstacles in future content, or talk directly to an individual player in the experience. It may also evolve to seamlessly facilitate live free-roam Vsports tournaments at multiple locations.

Player Zero is a feature of AMP that adds additional value outside of the VR experience. For spectators, it has both an automatic and manual mode for operators to showcase different cinematic angles and cool moments from in-game. For guests who want to takehome or share highlights from their experience, each play can be recorded or, in the future, streamed. 

Operators can customize the location name should they choose, allowing for greater flexibility to integrate into venues that may not want another brand added into their pre-existing entertainment location, although VRstudios has ready-to-use branding for those that leverage its name. 

New Experiences from VRstudios and Partners

VRstudios plans to release news around new content every 4-6 months, but its SDK can help bring additional experiences to market faster. Operators who own a VRcade system can also commission custom content for their specific location from VRstudios or select third-party developers. If that content is distributed to other locations the original operator can get a cut.

While VRstudios has experience integrating 4D effects into amusement park VR, this isn’t something that they are focusing on in their model for VRcade. As a result, they are able to keep system and operating costs down, while still maintaining a social experience that you can only get out-of-home. With that said, some guests of the Terminal 17 demo at IAAPA were fooled enough by the audio and visual tricks, that they were convinced they felt wind, and mistakenly thought that there was a real fan integrated into the setup.

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