LBE VR: Past, Present and Post Covid Future

As part of VRFocus’ current Better-Than-Reality-Awards, each category features an industry ambassador to delve into a particular aspect of their subject. Today, Apex Construct developer Fast Travel Games discusses location-based entertainment (LBE) VR gaming. Of course, don’t forget to cast your vote in The Better-Than-Reality-Awards now.

LBE virtual reality (VR) is an experience taking place within simulated environments, which operate in a specific location like theme parks, arcades, entertainment centres, and even movie theatres. While home VR gaming already offers highly immersive experiences, LBE VR raises the bar by offering streamlined options to play with a group of friends in the same physical location, allowing you to use your whole body while engaging with the content and often provides an unmatched level of graphical fidelity to further boost the quality perception.

Alongside home VR gaming, the LBR VR industry grew rapidly from 2016 onward. According to Greenlight Insights, which focuses on augmented and virtual reality market research, the LBE VR market amounted to $3.6 billion with a growth rate of 44% worldwide in 2019. This year, LBE VR was in a position to quite literally “explode”: Greenlight initially estimated that the market would grow to a $34.6 billion business, almost a x10 increase vs the year prior which would have been a fantastic performance for such a relatively young industry.

However, just like with cinemas and sport arenas, the situation with COVID-19 has massively impacted LBE VR companies in 2020. Not only completely halting the expected growth, but the impact the virus has had on our behaviour in regards to crowd gatherings and health precautions has also led to many LBE VR companies shifting focus towards home VR entertainment or completely new business areas. “We went from a relatively healthy business to zero revenue”, SandboxVE CEO Steve Zhao said in June this year. “We have to rethink our strategy.”

The Void is considered to be one of the most prominent companies in the LBE VR industry today. Operating since 2015 and running VR centres in North America, Europe, Asia and the Middle East, The Void is known world-wide for their LBE VR experiences based on popular franchises like Ghostbusters and Star Wars. Still closed due to the coronavirus, on the official website you can now read: “COVID-19 is affecting all of us – as employees, travellers and communities – in a constantly evolving environment and in unprecedented ways. As a result, our terminals are remaining closed for everybody’s safety and to support our local health officials and government leaders.”

Most businesses, not only LBR VR, are affected negatively whenever there is a high level of uncertainty on the market and it is safe to say that COVID-19 has brought a kind of uncertainty we have rarely seen before, changing our everyday lives and how we go about the most mundane of tasks – like going to the food store or greeting someone on the street. I for one hope for a day when LBE VR can pick itself up again and keep building on the already impressive experiences offered. All the nominees in the ‘Best LBE Experience’ category have brought highly immersive content to life in an industry currently suffering badly. Given this, they are all winners in my book.

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