VR & the Revival of Computer Game Arcades - shelisrael.com

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VR & the Revival of Computer Game Arcades

Arcade aisle

 

 

 

 

It was my last night in Barcelona and I had come down with what was either a bad cold or a mild flu. In any case, it was bad enough to return my invite to the Huawei Party, at the National Art Gallery, overlooking the city featuring Andrea Bocelli, the world’s leading opera tenor.

It was late and I was hungry and feeling a bit sorry for myself that I would have to eat alone, while my fellow Huawei blogging guests, the company’s employees, partners and friends partied in elegance. walked next door from the
Diagonal MarBarcelona Princess to an outdated shopping centers, that was so old, it was camp. I went to a Japanese restaurant where I slurped down a big bowl of Ramen Miso soup, in the hopes it would clear my breath track enough to get some sleep before an early airport departure.As I struggled with a small mountain of wet noodles, I kept hearing a combination of tunes, that were strangely familiar. They reminded me of the sounds of rooms filled with slot machines in Vegas, but also like the honky-tonk midway sounds at old amusement parks such as one that sucked many quarters out of my pocket when I was a teen-ager.
This was an odd coincidence. I had just been think of how penny arcades of the 1950s developed into the computer game arcades of the 1970s, when Pong, then Pac-man flourished before home computers were powerful enough to play games.

These game arcades flourished for a while. In my research I found that Pac-man had taken in $2.5 billion dollars in quarters from arcades in the 1980s, before home tech got better and most games became free. The arcades slowly Speed Demondisappeared: A few remained but have gotten more than a little seedy: I was standing in one that seems to have predated the computer games and seedy would have been a kind word to describe it.

I had been thinking about exactly that while ingesting my soup. It had to do with Robert Scoble, and the book I was writing with him called Beyond Mobile: Life After Smartphones and the paradox that almost everyone who tried VT headsets loved them, but they were expensive and it was very hard for a small number of companies to convince millions of people to buy based on demoing the headsets for ten minutes to one person at a time.

It dawned on me that this had happened before; the games had to be played by kids who would become addicted to IMG_0578them and who would then help game makers to addict their friends with a drug called fun. It had worked and the games got wildly popular and tech got better and free at home  saving kids from feeding the insatiable arcade coin slots.

I was thinking that the new VR Headset makers like Facebook’s Oculus, HTC with Vive and Samsung with Gear should consider the arcade model.These three companies along with others such as Apple and maybe even Amazon will compete fiercely, which is good for customers, but they should cooperate together to let people try on headsets and experience the amazing wonders of being totally immersed in games.

The design of the arcades would be highly modernized compared with what I was seeing in Barcelona. It would have music and vibe to appeal to Millennials and the coming generation that will follow them–I call them Mindcrafters after the game that seems to be shaping this new generation.

These arcades would flourish for a few years until increased adoption lowered priced and mass adoption kicks in–as it most certainly will. The cost of setting up these arcades would be far less than the mass marketing programs that are less likely to work among young gamers.

The number of people who could try and thus be convinced to buy would spike far higher far faster through arcades as a public testing lab. The game makers would learn far more in the arcades than in private usability labs.

And a certain mall in Barcelona could take this opportunity to execute a long-overdue update

One Response

  • Shannon Clark
    Feb 28, 2016

    I recall Robert (I think) talking with a company that is building immersive VR experiences – which are a hybrid of a VR helmet and environmental effects – creating an experience which is likely a long long way off from being replicated in the home (if ever as they take a lot of space).

    I think your suggestion is a good one – but I see a few challenges.

    1) Hygiene. This may seem small but imagine the challenge of getting people to put something on their face which 100’s of other people have been wearing for hours at a time. I don’t think it is trivial. Not insurmountable but it is challenging as there is something more intimate in wearing something on your head, covering your eyes and over your ears than even say wearing bowling shoes.

    2) Games designed for social play vs in home intimate play. An arcade can be about a solo experience – you against the machine – but historically it was all about a social experience – a few friends playing with (or against) each other on the same machine, or friends taking turns to see who could get the high score (pinball machines etc). And while you are playing your friends are watching. VR helmets aren’t particularly friendly for being watched while you are playing with one – as you are literally reacting to things the other people can’t see. (one option is if everyone is wearing a helmet at the same time then no one may be looking at how silly everyone might look – and perhaps everyone will be in a shared experience in the VR world)

    3) Related to point 2 – will the content be there that will work in a social environment? Will there be experiences to share with others which lead you to wanting to play with them in the intimacy of your own home?

    A model to take a look at would be the rise of board game cafes – start with Snakes and Lattes in Toronto (they now have multiple locations) but look at the many other similar cafes which have popped up all over the country (Victory Point Cafe in Berkeley, Endgame Cafe in Oakland being two local examples). These work via being a social space where people play – but in most cases they also sell at least some of the games which they let people play in the space (typical model is a pay per hour per person to play in the space – they make for great game.

    I think the balance will be hard to pull off – but the opportunity is definitely there for someone to figure out and pull off.

    Shannon Clark Feb 28, 2016
    Reply

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