FAQs About Opening or Starting a VR Arcade

I’ve been speaking with a lot of people who are looking at opening a VR Arcade and That. Is. Awesome.

The more conversations I have, the more I hear the same questions. When I was coaching people about their “content strategy” they would always say “I don’t know what to write about”. I would tell them, “Write the answers to your Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs). So without further adieu, here are 12 things you need to know…

Experiences

The first thing you need to consider is what sort of VR Arcade will you be opening? Will it just have headsets and allow people to play games on the HTC Vive or will you offer something people can’t get at home like this?

This is a VR Pod from China
9D VR Experience…Not necessary for opening IMHO

I must admit this is a bit of a trick question in my mind. As it stands today 99+% of the population has neither of these things at home. So for now, either is the right answer. My suggestion is start simple and be prepared to add to it. People will be blown away by what’s available in the Vive today. And with all of the available experiences you can start by opening a smaller arcade and use that money to invest in opening one with fancier technology.

Space

I know you’re busy thinking about the point above. Once you figure that out, you’ll have a better idea on how to answer this. In short, a typical “Vive Booth” requires a minimum of 8 feet by 8 feet (2.5 m x 2.5 m). If you have a little more space, all the better. (Check out this post about VR Arcade Design). You will also need room for some seating, check in and a lobby. So a very small arcade will be at least 800 square feet (250 sq meters). If you want to add the pods like pictured above or get into free roam experiences (see below: computer in a backpack so it’s portable VR) you will need WAY more space.

This is What Fun Looks Like
Standard HTC Vive booths at VR Junkies

Costs

You’re going to have costs associated with the technology (hardware, software, TVs, tablets, cabling, etc.) installation, design and construction of your space, rent, game fees, license fees, furniture, marketing and employees. Sounds fun, right? Some of these costs are 1 time charges and don’t amount to that much. Other charges are ongoing. Game licensing for instance…the more successful your arcade is, the more you will have to pay. Not a horrible problem to have. I’ll tell you what, I’ll write a more detailed post on costs if anyone asks.

When I was researching building out an arcade here in Detroit I had budgeted $70,000 to get the build out, equipment, software and have a bit of a cushion. If I didn’t get any business in the first 45 days, I wouldn’t have to worry about the 3rd month. I would have been closed up. Curious about learning from the other VR Arcade owners. How much did you budget for your opening?

Pricing

I’ve written extensively on the importance of pricing so just click that link to read more. In short, we charge $1.00 a minute and give price breaks for an hour.  That post also has a currency converter and a lot of rationale. Check it out.

Marketing

Your single best source of marketing is going to be the people who are in your arcade. Make it easy for them to promote you. Get yourselves listed on all of the cool social media channels. Come up with a short and memorable #. Encourage them to share photos and videos of themselves and their friends playing. Word of mouth is the most effective form of advertising there is. Added bonus…it can be the cheapest.  Offer people 5 minutes of free play (on their next visit) for tagging your space.  Want more insight on marketing, check out This Post.

Games

There are sooooooo many games. Like just so many. To say there are 1000 is an understatement. What’s even crazier is that for every game that exists there are probably 2 being developed right now. Here’s the truth…some games suck (that’s a technical term). They’re just not worth it. You need to make sure that your customers are offered a great gaming experience so it’s important to have access to some good data. We offer over 70 experiences through our licensing portal and continue to add top shelf experiences every week.  Click that link to learn more.

Make sure you have this game at opening
XorteX in the Lab is my fav VR experience.

Licensing

Speaking of licensing, this is a HUGELY important consideration. You can’t just go to steam, buy/download a game and then sell it in your VR Arcade. You have to license it from the developer. Yes, you could go to each and every developer and ask them to license their games to you. Or you could partner with someone who has already done that. See that link above in games 😉

Location

Did you ever see the movie The Field of Dreams? There was a line repeated throughout…”If you build it they will come”.  While many VR Arcade owners really want this to be true, that doesn’t mean it will be 🙁

If you’re not going to be in a location that has or is near significant foot traffic, you had better have a tremendous marketing budget. If you don’t have one or the other, this may not be the endeavor for you. Your space will need to be clean, accessible and a place that people will want to come. Think about opening in a mall or partnering with a place that already has lots of foot traffic. Some people are starting off by offering mobile VR Arcades. They’ll bring the gear to you. Maybe that’s a good starting point for you too?

Franchise?

To franchise or not franchise…that is this question. There’s pros and cons of both. A good franchise system will have all of the pieces in place for you to simply copy and paste your way into success.  But, you have to follow their rules and do things the way they want them done. This limits the creativity. Maybe that’s perfect if you’re not a creative type. Hmmmm

Here’s the deal, if you have your own brand already you may not want to franchise. If you don’t have one…maybe it will work out better. Check out VR Junkies for starters.

Software

Software can help you automate so many processes that will save you time, energy and staff once you have your grand opening. It would be worth it to research now. We are pretty proud of the software we have built and are continually making improvements. My favorite part is that we handle the game licensing for you. See above.

Our Software tracking game plays & more

Mobility

There are a few VR experiences that are mobile. Not like throw the equipment in the van and drive around mobile, but pack it up in a back pack and be able to move around in an Arena Scale version. IF this is what you’re thinking about opening, it is a whole different kettle of virtual fish. In fact, it’s a bit out of my league so I can’t really offer much advice, but am happy to discuss the pros and cons. What I know for sure is it requires much bigger space, more expensive equipment and way more expensive licensing/franchising fees.

Thinking about opening one of these?
Arena Scale VR…Look mom, no strings

Electrical

This is a question that always comes up. I can only speak for electrical here in the U.S. but there isn’t any fancy demands at all. Just typical outlets work fine. You will need a total of 5 outlets per booth. The Vive, The Computer, The TV and 2 Lighthouses. The lighthouses are normally diagonal from each other so you will need to keep that in mind. Get yourself a power strip with a surge protector for the computer, vive and TV and you should be all set.

Didn’t get enough from this post? Check out 5 More Things VR Arcade Owners Must Consider. It’s part 2 of the original post I wrote a few months back. Some of what is in those posts is covered here, but with a different take on it.

Are there questions you have that didn’t get answered? Ask away.

Want to talk to me directly, find me on Skype as trybean or send me an e-mail.

Be sure to check out our Facebook Page for all kinds of VR and a little bit of AR information.

Wow…this was long. Are you still here?

You don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here 😉

From Arcades to VR Arcade

 

Remember when Space Invaders hit in 1978?

It was the biggest game since Monopoly and it turns out it was basically nothing compared to others in the arcade space.

Because when Pac Man (Fun Online Pac Man Game You Can Play After You Read This) was released in 1980 it took the world by storm. There were shirts,  cartoons and even a song dedicated to that little ghost eating pellet muncher.

By 1981 video games were most everywhere you wanted to be. Restaurants had them in their bars and lobbies. Bowling alleys had them in their own rooms. That hotel you stayed at better have had an arcade near the pool. Even movie theaters got into the act because families arrived before showtime so their kids could play. Soon individual arcades began to spring up everywhere.

Kids were bugging parents for quarters and tokens to play Donkey Kong and Ms. Pac Man. Blisters on thumbs was the new normal. It’s no doubt you’ve played at least one of these classics, and if you’re over 40, your first time may very well have been a life altering experience.

Arcades of the 80s

Well, that was then…

What’s NOW is definitely mind-bending. Imagine being transported to some of the greatest sites on our planet via Google Earth in VR.  You can literally float over the Golden Gate Bridge or the Sphinx of Giza. If that’s not your thing, how about an underwater adventure where you come eyeball to eyeball with a ginormous blue whale? You can learn just how afraid of heights you and your friends are when you see who dares to walk out on Richie’s Plank. Or maybe you just want to shoot up a bunch of zombies...don’t forget to look behind you.

As of now, the equipment is too expensive for the average person to justify. This is why VR arcades are going to be HUGE beginning in 2017.

That was then this is now
Old School Arcades vs. New School VR Arcades

Why VR Arcades NOW?!

2016 was a banner year for the Virtual Reality industry. The year started off with plenty of fresh VR users who received the Samsung Gear VR (released November 27, 2015) as a must have gift for the holidays. But this was simply a coming attraction for the big releases to come.

The two heavyweights in the industry, the Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive  were each released within a week of March 30 and ready to do battle. Both of these head mounted displays provided for greater immersion than the Samsung model which is superior to Google Cardboard.

The timing was great  because over the past 5-10 years the computer hardware industry had created processors that were fast enough to support this new reality that had been developing since the 1960’s.

Game developers around the globe have been dreaming of building game worlds in Virtual Reality and now they finally can. New games hit the market almost daily and you never know what will come next. The amount of new titles that have been added to the Steam VR library is quite impressive.  The four items mentioned above are a small taste. There are well over 500 experiences created as of this writing.

Looking for Early Adopters

Those places that jumped on  the arcade bandwagon by 1981 did well for themselves.  We’re at the beginning of a gaming revolution that will make Pac Man Fever look like a common cold.

We told you earlier that we want to make the process of setting up your own virtual reality arcade business an easy one. Let’s start with some questions:

  • Does your venue pride itself on providing cutting edge experiences?
  • Can you attract customers between the ages of 12 and 50?
  • Are you looking to replace an under-performing attraction?
  • Do you have between 800-1000 sq ft available? (doesn’t have to be contiguous)
  • Would older siblings spend money if you had something for them to do?
  • Would you like to add six figures worth of revenue?

If you answered yes and are interested in reading what we do, click HERE. Otherwise send us a note and we will call you soon.

Social Media Mastery for FECS

Family Entertainment Centers are all about FUN. Social Media is the way we broadcast what we’re doing to the world. Put them together and it’s like Peanut Butter and Chocolate. This post explores 4 social media sites you must be using to grow your FEC.

LinkedIn is the place for business.

LinkedIn – Serious Business

With 450M + users this is a powerful tool in the toolbelt. Its great for sharing your past experiences, has groups to connect with others who share a common interest, has a handful of business specific apps and the most powerful search tool in social media.

In my opinion the best offering LinkedIn has is the ability to either find or be found. Their search capabilities are incredible. In fact, Google uses LinkedIn as one of the first places it checks when a search on a person is conducted. This search is important for your event managers to find event planners and for them to find you. H.R. directors are also looking for “Team Building” exercises. Can they do those at your place? You wouldn’t mind a 30-50 person party at 10:00 on a Tuesday, would you? Your marketing team can find strategic partners and sponsors too. With the right pictures, images and geo-focus (think right groups) your prospective clients will be able to find you and your business.

A few things you will want to be sure to do on LinkedIn:

• Join the groups that are relevant to your geography. Could be University groups, local chambers, groups based on cities in your area and more.

• Have an updated company listing.

• Leverage LinkedIn for your hiring needs.

• Complete your profile (a specific “how to” is included in this piece).

• Use the status update feature at least 3 times a week

• Upload your address book and increase the size of your network.

The most misunderstood Social Media tool 

Twitter  – The Bird is the Word

It’s way more than just “sitting on your patio”. What’s particularly awesome about Twitter is just how much you can get done while sitting on your patio! The search function is strong and the ability to connect with the next generation of thought leaders is vital. Twitter is a research tool as much as it is a broadcast tool. Smart businesses use this to provide excellent customer care, hire great talent, “listen” to what is being said about their business and of course market their products and services.

A few things your company can do right now:

• Figure out the core facets of your business and learn how to communicate each one in 120 characters or less.

• Use photos and live videos of people having fun. Don’t forget the release form.

• Designate someone in your business to “monitor” twitter for mentions about your company. It’s another customer service channel.

• Understand how URL shortners like http://bit.ly work

• Use twitter to post open positions, upcoming events,  contests and special deals.

Oh and be sure to start following influential people in your area…folks on the news, radio, athletes and @tweet them once in a while. Call me for help.

Video is where it’s at!

YouTube – Video Reigns

YouTube- sure your kids are watching the latest Katie Perry videos here and YouTube can help your business too. There are well over 1 billion videos served up daily. People love quick tips, tours and product releases especially when they can see and hear them. Production quality is not nearly as important as it once was and far less important than immediacy. This means, grab your phone and take some video and share it. Better yet, tag the people in the video so their people see it too (this is more of a Facebook tip).

A few things your company can do immediately:

• Setup a YouTube channel. This will allow you to customize the page so it fits with your brand.

• Have a couple of nice videos created about your venue. Edit them. Talk about who your audience is and what attractions you have for them. Then show the attractions.

• Have a “brainstorming” session about how your company could create fun videos about your product like they did at Blendtec (they got 5.6M views on a blender video). Invite your entire staff.

• Consider a monthly theme that features different aspects of your venue.

• Invest $600 in a DSLR camera, a tripod, some lights and maybe a mic. Want to spend way more on this stuff? That’s easy to do 😉

This Social Media Site Does it All

Facebook – One Stop Shop

This monster combines all of the aforementioned aspects AND has over 1 Billion users. Facebook can be an absolute nuisance and time-waster or it can be a power tool for your business. It’s a wonderful place to re-connect with your past, dive in deeper with your present and make plans with your future.

Your business will want to:

• Have a branded “public page” that communicates things of interest to your client base.

• Post status updates similar to those on Twitter (they can be longer on Facebook).

• Share the videos you created for YouTube and post photos – Pro tip you are going to want to upload them to both YouTube AND Facebook. Don’t share from YouTube TO Facebook. Google and Facebook don’t like each other.

• Use the “events” to spread information about upcoming events you may host.

• Join groups and like pages that are relevant to your business/industry.

• Have a policy for how your company uses Facebook and all of these tools

This post is already a bit long. But I would be remiss to not mention taking a look at Snapchat, especially if you’re targeting tweens and above and of course Instagram.

How are you using these sites?
What tips would you add to this post?