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…
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?
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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 😉
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?
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 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.
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.
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?