By: Howard McAuliffe, Pinnacle Entertainment Group
We recently tested the new Zero Latency VR experience at Kalahari in the Poconos.  We battled zombies, and at one point I took an elevator up to a second level where I could be a sniper shooting the zombies from above.  I thought I should jump off the platform, knowing intellectually that I was standing on the ground, but my brain wouldn’t let me do it, that is how real the experience feels.   It was the coolest game experience I’ve ever had.  There is a lot to be excited about with VR.  This is why it is one of the hottest topics in consumer electronics as well as the out of home entertainment industry.  Here are the reasons to be excited:
  • The technology and game play is here for a unique and fun experience
  • Major companies are spending billions (with a B) on development to improve the technology and software
  • The expense of the top systems will ensure they don’t become consumer technology any time soon
  • The space required to install VR is significantly less than other major attractions
However, there are still several reasons to be concerned about investing in VR
  • The cost of the best systems is very high
  • The fees typically charged to play the best systems is over $15 which makes repeat business difficult in community based locations
  • The cheaper systems are based on consumer technology which is available for home use
  • Most of the systems are new and reliability, support, and software development need to be proven over time
This IAAPA we will be looking closely at VR and expect to begin testing different models in 2018 with our most progressive clients.  We specifically are interested in the technology available through Creative Works which is a lower price option for a high-end experience.  There is no question that there is a place for VR and as the technology improves and prices come down there will be ever more applications.  We see this as a future component of family entertainment centers, but do not see this technology replacing arcades for one primary reason.  Social groups, whether the group is a family, corporate group, birthday party, or just a group of friends, they are looking for social experiences and VR is not much of a social experience.  Sure you can experience VR as a group it is an intense experience.  This is not the same as playing various arcade games together, which allow groups to talk with each, play together, and generally socialize.  In addition, we have seen a major shift in the typical arcade revenue stream away from video games to redemption games over the last 20 years.  Consumers love playing for prizes, and joy of collecting tickets and winning prizes is not going away.  It is very common to see grandparents, parents, and kids playing in arcades together.  We now have 3 generations of players familiar with arcades and it is main stream entertainment.  VR has a long way to go to penetrate that size of a market, but it is rapidly gaining momentum.