Is the VR bar the new arcade?

VR is at early stages of adoption, and as a result is facing the expected hurdles that any new tech must get over. There’s a question around of lack of access to the tech itself and then there’s lack of knowledge about how to use it; is it a social or solitary occasion, is it gaming or is it experiential, what content is out there? The list goes on…

There is a need to give consumers both exposure and guidance to help VR make its way firmly into the mainstream.

Enter Otherworld. A few of us from TVE had heard about this great new immersive VR  experience in East London, billed as ‘a unique sense hacking technology and portal to another dimension’. We went with our ‘consumer hats’ on to try it out.

Let’s start with the VR bit of the trip first. Each person has their own pod, lined with padding, as well as VR headset, earphones and controllers. (No need to worry about knocking something over or being filmed by friends, a fate that many have suffered).

Once in the virtual world, your full body movements are tracked, and you can talk and walk around with your friends. Run down a mountainside and you feel the wind against you, or walk past a fire and feel heat emanating from it. Instead of controlling an avatar who feels disconnected to you, you really feel as if you are the avatar. It’s all starting to feel like Ready Player One isn’t too far off…

The three of us played a zombie shoot up together. Although this is nothing out of the ordinary in terms of content, the whole experience was both immersive and addictive, and we all stepped out of our pods genuinely amazed.

But what’s probably more interesting than the quality of the VR game itself is the format of this broader experience. We’re in this futuristic bar (scarily reminiscent of Black Mirror), but it’s packed with people enjoying drinks and sharing stories of their VR experiences.

It dawned on us that this wasn’t so futuristic after all, but actually an evolution of a games arcade.

Is this, then, the new gaming format that could launch VR into mainstream adoption? And is VR the catalyst by which the relatively tired arcade industry could be rejuvenated?

And as retail heads online, is virtual heading to our high streets? If this is the case, which brands will own these physical spaces? Will ‘Experience’ start ups spring up or will it be the big gaming brands that go physical, and fully extend into 360 experience brands?

All I can say for sure now is get yourself to Otherworld, it’s worth it!

By: Rachel Ballard

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