Operating a virtual reality (VR) attraction at a family entertainment center (FEC) can be daunting. What are the ingredients for success? Last month, Virtuix’s “Omniverse” VR gaming platform sailed past one million plays. With this milestone achieved, we decided to share the six major lessons that Virtuix and our operators learned along the way.
Lesson 1: Offer Fewer Games Than You Think You Need
Although operators tend to ask for more and more games, the greatest revenue boost comes from a few hit games, not more games. Our data indicates that 5 to 10 games are optimal. Beyond 10 titles, additional games do not add value to players and offer little extra return to operators.
Virtuix’s Omniverse content platform includes 20 optimized games. Gameplay data shows that four games account for 80% of plays. In other words, 80% of revenue comes from only 20% of games. The 10 least popular games on the platform generate only 6% of plays.
Winner-takes-all: the top 4 Omniverse games account for 80% of daily revenues
Though games outside the platform’s top five may not be the initial draw, they still have a benefit: stimulating repeat play. 55% of return visitors reported that they returned specifically to try games they hadn’t played before.
An ideal VR game library comprises 5 to 10 games, including two or more shooter games, two horror games, and one kid’s game. For VR’s target age range (13-29), shooters are king. Eight of the ten most popular Omniverse games are shooter games. The second most requested genre is horror, the top choice among women. In third place are kid’s games.
Lesson 2: Simplify Controls and Don’t Make Your Players Sick
The most important factor in successful plays, reported by 79% of Omni operators, is simple, easy-to-learn controls. Location-based entertainment (LBE) games must be easy to play for inexperienced guests, while still fun for proficient gamers. As Atari founder Nolan Bushnell believed, the ideal game is “easy to play, difficult to master.”
Optimization against motion sickness is also crucial. Inadequate frame rate is the number-one cause of motion sickness in VR games. To avoid it, games must maintain a frame rate of 90 frames per second or higher. Visible frame rate problems in a game (a stuttering screen, for example) mean your guests are nearly guaranteed to get sick.
Pro tip: use the SteamVR framerate tool to verify a game’s framerate (ask us how!). Any spikes above the green zone indicate a framerate of less than 90 frames per second and will result in motion sickness.
Lesson 3: Recognize Players’ Self-Consciousness
VR attractions typically attract a steady audience of onlookers. However, not all seemingly interested guests decide to play. What hesitation drives them away without trying?
The number-one answer, from a survey of 80 Virtuix operators, is that “guests are shy or uncomfortable about playing while people are watching.”
Although putting VR players on a stage or in view of an audience may attract onlookers and potential players, such a public display turns off guests who are self-conscious and afraid to look silly. Although providing more privacy for players may diminish an attraction’s visual draw, it may actually increase the number of guests who end up trying it.
Recognize that not every guest is comfortable playing in front of a big crowd.
Lesson 4: Select the Right Staff Personalities as Attendants
VR is new not only to FEC operators, but also to most FEC guests. As well as feeling self-conscious and afraid to look silly, many guests lack experience playing VR video games. As a result, throughout their VR experience, guests need lots of handholding by attendants who are socially engaging and comforting to players.
Many operators assign their most technically-minded staff or their resident gaming fanatics as VR attendants. This choice may be a mistake, as these employees may not be the most personable. Instead, assign VR attendants who are good with people first, tech-savvy second. The quality of your VR attendants will increase your revenues by easing players’ nervousness and encouraging repeat plays.
Assign VR attendants who are socially engaged and comforting to players.
Offering guests a complete start-to-finish experience with an engaging attendant sets the attraction apart. It allows you to raise ticket prices because you are providing a more satisfying and memorable guest experience. Omni Arena™, for example, includes a pre-game staging area with social mini-games and a post-game area with social sharing stations. These fun additional elements lengthen the guest experience from a five-minute game to a complete 20-minute experience during which guests interact with the game, other players, and the attendant.
Omni Arena includes a built-in staging area with social mini-games and a post-game area with social sharing stations.
Lesson 5: Simple Operation is Necessary
Operating VR can be messy. Many hardware and software components need to be managed, maintained, and troubleshooted. Operational simplicity is required to keep throughput up and labor costs down.
Virtuix’s first foray into the FEC market, a stage-style product with five Omnis placed in a small area, had suboptimal throughput, flow, and labor cost. Two years of customer feedback informed the design of Virtuix’s new attraction, Omni Arena, which incorporates several key lessons:
- The optimal player-to-attendant ratio is 4:1 (4+ players to 1 attendant). If more than one attendant is required for four or fewer players, then ROI will suffer.
- Consistent player throughput keeps players and operators happy. Well-designed attractions are intuitive to operate and follow a steady cadence, with player groups entering and exiting in a synchronous manner. Semi-automated operation and consistent, systematic flow of players are essential to keeping throughput high (at least 20 players per hour).
- Do-It-Yourself setups are not worth it. Don’t fall into the trap of “DIY VR.” Cobbling together cheap components bought individually so often results in high-tech messes with never-ending glitches and errors. The player experience is disjointed, and the headache for operators far outweighs any reduction in upfront hardware cost. Choose a turnkey solution from a proven, reputable vendor who bundles all components in a complete, stable, high-tech attraction that “just works.”
The Omni Arena esports attraction is a 4-player turnkey system that can be operated by 1 attendant.
Lesson 6: Ultimately, It’s Not About VR (Our Most Surprising Lesson of All)
Who cares about VR? Although guests may be initially curious to try it, the novelty wears off fast. Ultimately, guests want to have fun, and VR is just a medium to experience that fun. Players’ frequent use of a VR attraction requires genuinely fun gameplay, not just a novel one-time VR experience.
Popular anchor attractions that do attract regular, repeat players (bowling, laser tag, go-karting) share three common characteristics:
- Active — a physical activity is involved
- Multiplayer — you can play with friends
- Competitive — players compete head-to-head or on a leaderboard
To attract repeat players and outlast VR’s novelty effects, an anchor VR attraction needs all three of these characteristics.
Active VR: Two players battle against each other in a shooter videogame using Omni motion platforms.
Esports combined with the Omni motion platform is an explosive new phenomenon that adds the three characteristics of an anchor attraction to VR. Featuring addictive, competitive gaming and physical running inside videogames, Omniverse ESPORTS™ stimulates repeat play and enables operators to build a local community of return players.
In January’s global Omniverse ESPORTS™ contest, 50% of participants were returning players, including nine of the top ten teams from the previous contest. Over the four-day contest, the top 3 teams played an average of 12 times, and the top 20 teams played an average of 7 times. One team played 20 times, demonstrating the repetitive play potential of competitive esports. By combining the active, multiplayer, competitive elements of successful anchor attractions, esports gives VR attractions the promise of longevity.
Omniverse ESPORTS™ offers a prize pool of $50,000 in 2019 with sponsorship from HTC and HP.
An Exciting New Omniverse™ Game
Omniverse is Virtuix’s proprietary content platform for the Omni motion platform. Omniverse currently offers 20 VR games that are highly optimized both for the Omni and LBE.
Recently added as the platform’s 20th game, Bull Runner simulates the annual “Running of the Bulls” festival in Pamplona, Spain. Players compete for the highest score by running as close to the bulls as they can without getting gored. The game highlights the Omni’s key benefit, the ability to physically run in VR – after all, you wouldn’t want to walk away slowly from running bulls, would you?
Watch our video:
Bull Runner takes advantage of the Omni’s key benefit: the ability to run in VR.
To date, Virtuix has shipped more than 3,000 Omnis to over 500 entertainment venues in 45 countries. Virtuix’s latest attraction, Omni Arena™, is a turnkey 4-player esports attraction designed for FEC’s and large entertainment centers. For more information about Omni Arena, click here.
Contact us to learn more about how esports and VR can increase revenues for your business and help you grow in 2019!
The Virtuix Team