A talk about VR arcades with Springboard VR

I got in touch with Will Stackable of Springboard VR, a company building a dedicated platform for VR arcades. He got my interest telling me

“We’re now the largest arcade platform outside of Asia… and we’re talking with innovative companies like ADVR to figure out how to connect the dots between arcade customers and major brands.”

so I thought it could be an interesting idea to ask him some questions about what he does and about the VR arcades market in general. Let’s begin!

Who are you? Why do you entered VR?

There are three owners of Springboard VR (and we also own a VR arcade).

We’ve been watching the VR space for some time and are all interested in being in the industry for the long term.

Starting a VR arcade was a great entry point… which led us to realize the need for a software solution / platform for the arcade industry.

So we pivoted and went “all-in” to develop Springboard… which has really taken off. We’ve had 64 arcades (from every continent but antarctica) sign up to use our platform. About half of our customers are outside of the U.S. and we’re growing fast. In the last 4 weeks we’ve had 30 sign ups… from Peru, Pakistan, Canada, Germany… you name it.

We’re very excited about the VR Arcade industry and we want to see it succeed.

If you want a quick bit of back history, here is a letter from Brad Scoggin, the CEO.

What is your company? What do you do?

Springboard VR is a dedicated platform for VR Arcades that makes it super simple for arcade owners to “automate” their arcade.

Tell me more about Springboard VR!

Springboard lets customers review and select games in a beautiful VR environment, learn basic gameplay with a custom tutorial, call for help, schedule a session ahead of time and more.

For arcade owners, Springboard reduces employee load, allowing them to run an entire arcade from a single device, track time, get real-time customer notifications and see in-depth analytics on their arcade.

VR Arcades platform Springboard VR
Springboard VR interface: the player can choose the experience he wants to play, seeing all its characteristics (Image by Springboard VR)
Can you give me some real numbers about the VR arcade industry? Market size, growth, etc…

We know of about 250 Arcades outside of China. We have noticed a growth of about 1-2 new VR Arcade per day opening.

Don’t you think that when VR will penetrate the market (2019 or such), lots of VR arcades will shut down?

We believe there will be certain peripherals and certain social aspects that will only be available in the arcade space for a long time.

The nature of arcade will definitely change over time… but just like the traditional coin-operated arcades didn’t die out when PC / Console games started becoming more affordable, the VR Arcade space will definitely be around long term, even if it has to change to reflect the market.

As an example, there are already VR rollercoaster rides where you could simulate being in an actual rollercoaster park in a mall setting. Think the Superman ride but in a 3500 square foot mall space.

How are different arcades in Asia wrt to United States ones?

The arcade space in Asia is all over the place. You have the gamut, from very large, high end VR arcade parks with millions of dollars of rides to the hole in the whole shops that are using knock-off headsets. We have heard that the customer experience is an issue in the Chinese market. Most arcades in the USA, Canada, and Europe are focusing a lot of attention on the user experience.

How do you envision the future of VR arcades?

Very social. Lots of different peripherals (think full body haptic suits, omni-directional treadmills, rollercoaster rides, etc).

Possible integration of a game counter (ticket model)… very possible that we’ll see some kind of additional revenue streams. (For example, allowing advertisers to create brand experiences and letting customers play them). Imagine Red Bull having a “Red Bull VR Challenge” and making it available in arcades for customers to play. (Maybe in exchange for an extra 15 minutes of play time). This is already in the works… checkout ADVR for instance.
I thank a lot Will of Springoard VR, because this interview has been super-interesting, since VR arcades are considered by lots of people as one of the carriers that will help VR in becoming widespread. Having such data expressed by someone working in the field is pure gold. Apart from their awesome project Springboard VR, I want to highlight 3 things from the interview:
  1. There are 250 VR Arcades outside of China and we’ve a growth rate of 1-2 arcades opening each day! That’s an impressive rate, considering that opening a VR arcade is not as easy as opening a lemonade stand. Even here in Italy we’re starting having VR arcades… one has opened some months ago in the northern part of my country and one maybe will start in my city. So, the market is growing very fast… my question is if one day the bubble will explode;
  2. China is full of arcades, but these are not all high-quality ones. I’ve already talked about VR in China… and knowing Chinese people I don’t find it hard to imagine a Chinese food shop owner envisioning the possibility to earn some money from VR and putting a Vive station between the noodles shelf and the fridge of dumplings. Of course the quality of the latter experience is very low. This can be a problem for the reputation of VR arcades in the red country. So, as always, growth of VR in China is very confused and frenetic;

    VR Arcades china
    Chinese people experiencing VR in an exhibition (Image from RoadToVR)
  3. VR Arcades will have to evolve. Now everyone is opening an arcade, but in the long run only the ones really offering something innovative (not only from a technological standpoint, but also from a social one) and not replicable at home will survive . The Void will have long life, while the Chinese food shop owner will have to return just selling food. This still makes me think about the bubble: in the end all people opening low-quality arcades will have to evolve or die and I think that when VR will become widespread we’ll see a lot of arcades closing.
  4. There’s an ongoing tension between game developers and arcades. I know, this was not present in this interview, but Will just mentioned that in the first e-mail he sent to me. It seems that arcade owners and arcade game developers have to find a satisfying agreement about licensing/pricing of the games that people plays. This is a very interesting topic, too: as a developer, how much can I get for every people that plays my game? Or do I just want to be played upfront and get no royalties from every people playing?

As always, I would like to talk about this with you! So comment or contact me on twitter! And subscribe to my newsletter to not miss my latest articles!

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AR/VR developer, startupper, zombie killer. Sometimes I pretend I can blog, but actually I've no idea what I'm doing. I tried to change the world with my startup Immotionar, offering super-awesome full body virtual reality, but now the dream is over. But I've still not waken up...