Bringing VR (Virtual Reality) gaming to your home remains a very expensive option, from the monster PC or specific console you’ll need to run it, to the headset itself. Lower-end solutions are getting better and more affordable, but for now, the best entertainment tech is still out of reach for most.
If you thought we were done with 80's throwbacks, however, here’s one for you - the arcade, where VR gaming has found a new home.
To those who grew up with any kind of console in their own home, VR gaming in public - sharing a snug-fitting headset with every anonymous clammy head to scrape together enough coins for a 20 minute 'go' - might be, um, a bit too real.
But high-end VR brands and entrepreneurs think the arcade is ready for a remake, and may even inject new life in failing cinemas and entertainment complexes who tick some of the boxes for a good VR facility.
HTC, arguably the leaders in consumer VR at present (although absolutely everything is up in the air with this brand new technology) have released the Viveport Arcade, a content management system for these arcades which are starting to poke up around the world. Apparently the biggest is Viveland in Taiwan, which, for an hour, seemingly charges over 6 times the local hourly minimum wage.
A bit dear for an arcade?
VR experiences so far in Ireland are expensive, too. One location in Dublin currently, also using the HTC Vive, charges two people €32 each for an hour, with a cheaper rate per person for groups. Another company in Limerick offers half an hour for €15.
That’s OK, maybe, if the experience wasn’t completely addictive... but these setups may, by price and design, be limited to birthday parties and company team-building days. It’s less like somewhere you’d slink off to on a free afternoon to spend all your disposable income, whether you're on the mitch or a bona-fide grown up.
Even more ambitious than the re-imagined arcade are the 'VR theme parks' coming to locations like New York, Dubai, Toronto and... Utah. These venues use custom equipment, running off a laptop stowed away in a backpack that doubles as your 'character’s' kit. They also have far more space for people to move around: keeping the illusion intact better than when rooted to the spot with a wire attached.
Ireland has yet to get a whiff of anything this immersive - good news for Tayto Park’s '4D cinema' experience, which - in this author's humble opinion - is about as immersive as watching the weather forecast while someone blows water at you through a straw.
What might just be this generation’s Pac-Man doesn’t look like it’s taking off here quite yet, but as is often the case, we may just be experiencing a little lag.