Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Virtual Reality Arcades Bank on Gamer Interest in Trying out New Technology

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Virtual Reality Arcades Bank on Gamer Interest in Trying out New Technology

Article excerpt

Virtual reality arcades let gamers test new tech


WATERLOO, Ont. - Imagine walking into a black-walled, nondescript room that instantly transforms into another world where you can explore outer space or defend a castle from monsters -- all by donning a virtual reality headset.

That's the experience that awaits visitors at one of the number of new VR arcades opening up across Canada. Business owners are hoping to capitalize on gamers' interest in trying out the immersive technology, even as it becomes more readily available for the public to use at home.

Since the summer and over the past few weeks, several companies have started releasing high-end VR headsets for consumers. But some industry insiders and VR arcade owners aren't concerned, arguing that the mass extinction video game arcades of the 70s and 80s faced won't beset this growing industry because obstacles like price and space still exist when it comes to bringing the true VR experience to households.

It's impossible to know how many VR arcades exist but more and more are opening up, says Bernie Roehl, co-founder of the Virtual Reality Standards Board, a non-profit organization that advises commercial VR facilities on best practices.

"It ranges all the way from huge, massive, literally multimillion-dollar installations, all the way down to an Internet cafe," he said, describing the gamut of VR arcades that exist in the global marketplace.

Several of these facilities already operate in Canada, including Ctrl V, which opened its first Waterloo, Ont., location last June. It boasts 16 play spaces where visitors can select from more than 20 games, including multi-player experiences, with new ones added monthly for about $25 an hour.

Ctrl V has since expanded to a second spot in the city and is planning for at least another 20 locations in the first year, says its chief financial officer Robert Bruski.

He says the company has received about 160 applications to open franchise locations -- mostly in Canada and the U.S., but also some from the United Kingdom, France, Australia and South Africa.

"Most people have never played virtual reality, so it's new to everyone," says Bruski. …

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