IAAPA 2018: The Final Wrap-up With AR & VR Attractions

Shaggy December 19, 2018 1
IAAPA 2018: The Final Wrap-up With AR & VR Attractions

We finally come to a close of our IAAPA 2018 coverage, this year taking a bit longer to get to it all than usual as I’ve been occupied with managing work from multiple directions. Better late than never I suppose!

For previous Wrap-ups:

This final post will focus on the Augmented and Virtual Reality attractions that have been sweeping up R&D dollars, as well as bolstering floor space on trade show floors. Although before we dive into that, some overall thoughts, putting the “final” verdict at the top.

The Verdict

This year was host to an incredible show, something that was fitting of a 100th anniversary for the IAAPA organization. The amount of energy was reflective of the creativity and and prosperity that we’re seeing happen out there.

As arcade operators, we have a lot of great games that we can bring to our locations. As players, there are many great games to play which cover a variety of tastes – classic style, modern casual style, titles that span various genres, etc. No, not every game might be your “cup ‘o tea,” but most gamers should find something that they can enjoy – just as long as they don’t approach every game with impossibly high expectations (such as the “this can never be better than what I played in ’82” attitude).

In the most recent issue of Replay Magazine, Eugene Jarvis was quoted as saying that he hasn’t seen the industry as vibrant as it is now. Unfortunately I do not have the exact quote in front of me as someone put my copy away and can’t remember where it went. But that was the gist of it, and it was striking for him to make such a statement. 

By all counts that I see, 2019 should be a great year for the amusement craft – as long as we keep a clear head, a steady hand and an optimistic vision forward. It doesn’t hurt for operators to be prepared though; having little or no debt puts you in a better situation to deal with the economic roller coaster, be it going up or down. That and not being easily taken to PANIC! as some seem to be when it comes to any bad market news.

OK, enough of the business preaching, let’s talk about VR 😛

The Current Realities Of VR

I keep stressing that VR should not be angled as some kind of replacement for arcades, but as a new attraction feature that our industry can use in certain instances to create that “diverse portfolio” that brings people through the door. While there are a few instances of a VR product designed to reduce the need for a constant attendant, supervision does come with the territory of wearable tech to one degree or another. 

On a side note, I was sent an article that mentions how Dave & Busters is going to boost their VR content beyond the Jurassic World VR Expedition, first with something involving dinosaurs and then a licensed Star Trek game (whether that’s Bridge Crew or something else, we’ll have to wait and see; something they will be doing to hopefully make up for their poor food sales). No earnings on how VR is doing have been mentioned yet, but I have to assume that it’s doing decent enough for D&B, while also presuming that these games will re-use the motion platform.

Back to IAAPA 2018. This year saw an increase in the number of companies involved in VR, by my count it hit 83, which was 23 more than last year. There were plenty of repeats from previous years, although quite a few newcomers.

While I do like seeing the growth, at the same time I recognize that the chances of many of these companies still being around a couple of years out isn’t statistically great. The pricing I heard for most systems was definitely in the realm of FECs, which has been in a bull market mode this year, but is still limited in the number of locations that can be reached. These also will be out of reach for a majority of small “VR/Arcade” locations out there who generally just use HTC Vives and some cubicle walls or drapes to keep each person separate.

There is also the question of whether or not the companies have enough “there” to keep them going in case they are successful with one product – there are a lot of systems out there which aren’t doing a whole lot to distinguish themselves from the other.

We can also apply this question to the “Space Invaders moment” question, something we’ve brought up before. Has VR found it’s “Space Invaders,” where everyone will be jumping on-board and installing a particular game on location? Not yet, although I do have to question if that is even possible with the tech. The Space Invaders phenomenon was something that was born out of a number of timing factors (aka, the right idea that came at the right time and through the right people) that is incredibly difficult to repeat in any business. By the same token, the Golden Age of Arcades was an anomaly, but that won’t stop some from wanting to replicate the same set of circumstances.

I did find that I experienced much less vertigo and avoided the day-long migraine that I went through last year after using VR HMDs. I attribute this in good part to wearing contacts instead of glasses. I did feel like I came away with “VR face” a couple of times from a tight headset, but I’ll take that over a migraine or wanting to puke.

VR Video #1

Let’s stop yapping for a minute and show you some of what was there. I do apologize if you had something at the show and I did not get to it;  arcades do take precedence here at Arcade Heroes, and 83 companies is quite a lot to film that I simply didn’t have time for in a week:

Ok, so let’s break some of that down. Attaching VR to motion rides is still a popular option, seeming to draw enough interest for there to be lines at most such systems. Although I would have liked to have caught a few riders afterwards to ask if they would pay for the experience or ride it again – it’s always different when it’s free.

I did play the Assassin’s Creed game shown near the beginning and found it fun. It is too bad that the attendant has to break the illusion near the end, but that didn’t “ruin” the overall experience. I didn’t get the time to try out the competing VR maze, We Play VR over at Namco’s booth, which had an updated setup and new content. But I did notice that there were not many VR mazes around this year.

The most impressive setup was certainly VRsenal with their Beat Saber and Predator VR games. Beat Saber is the closest concept that VR has to the “Space Invaders moment” right now, although it is widely available on home VR setups, which I think lessens the potential impact it could have. Still, I think it shows that VR could probably perform better with a rhythm slicing game than the Beachhead “stuck in a foxhole” method.

Predator looks cool, although I did not get the chance to play it so can’t say more than initial visual impressions and it looked like a Beachhead style game (where you are not the Predator…by what I could tell).

I did get a chance to try out the “Holographic Arcade Table,” although only in single player where it’s meant for two. It’s a good start, but is psuedo-holographic in that you are using 3D glasses and looking at a projection as opposed to a true, volumetric display. Speaking of psuedo-holograms, the effect is used in ICE’s new Tomy Waterfuls game to good effect. While we keep seeing the trick used in videmption, I thought it looked great.

I also really liked the effect seen in final version of Touch Magix’s Mystery Island. In thinking about it, the software itself could use a few tweaks (mainly in explaining how you defeat enemies & using power-ups), but that effect of the perfect mapping on the cone is really cool…more memorable than transparent LCDs from a few years back. And no HMD required.

I played both of InJoy Motion’s new VR games, although they wanted to stress that they have been transitioning into more of a hardware producer than a software developer. If you are unfamiliar with them, they used to produce arcade machines, almost always with a focus on motion simulation. Of the content shown above, I played the Jurassic Park-style game and the Space Fighter title; I liked the latter the most, although I have a soft spot for space combat games. Still, it felt a bit different, getting out of that Beachhead box so many VR titles suffer from. Only issue was that there were too many buttons for what you needed. They have been teaming up with several different devs to produce this content, which seemed solid and the games looked nice. They also were talking half the price tag that most VR is seeming to ask for (Injoy is in the area of $15-18k, if I recall correctly).

I did not get a chance to try MediaMation’s setup; they are one of the longest operating VR companies I’ve seen (they were the first ones I ever came across at IAAPA to be showing off VR, back in the days before Oculus decided to restrict their HMDs to home-use only). In a little bit of a confusing situation, they were running the Jurassic World VR Expedition, while a big Dave & Busters branded machine elsewhere on the floor was not. The was some sort of licensing dispute with Universal going on there, which I won’t pretend to be privy to knowing about; suffice it to say, MediaMation did have the right to be operating this software and is also doing so at other public  locations.

VR Video #2

Taking up a little less time, here’s part 2:

I did get to try out Total Recoil, which had a Starship Troopers feel to it, using the Beachhead style play. The gun on the game felt like something you might expect to come across on a mounted gun arcade game, just heavier. The feedback also adapted to the in-game action. I managed to get near the top of the leaderboard on my first play, overall it is one that the company could adapt to working without a VR headset pretty well.

The Virtual Rabbids Big Ride is getting 3 more film rides, helping build on the success that this machine has enjoyed already. This one has already shown up on Replay’s earning charts, so it is doing quite well.

The Scale-1 Portal has come a long way from the small room version we saw back in 2015. This one is closer to MXR than VR, the nice thing about is is that you don’t need anything more than some standard 3D glasses. Scale-1 has joined up with Creative Works for North American turnkey setups, so you might be finding this one in more locations in 2019.

I did want to check out the VR Ninja Dojo, but missed out on the chance. It took a bit more time to prepare for, the users needing to be fitted and trained for what they would face. By the monitor setup on the side, the graphics for it looked very nice – high-quality and a solid frame rate.

VRcade was one of the few wireless/tetherless, open-space or open arena VR concepts to be found. They also have been around for a few years, appearing to have been hitting a stride. They have numerous games made available for what they are doing, although I also did not get a chance to try them out.

What Did I Miss?

As you can imagine, a few things. When you hear that IAAPA is a massive show, that is hard to convey through words. I heard that if you walked every path, on the floor, you’d cover 10 miles. I don’t know if that’s true, but it certainly felt like it.

I thought I had filmed more than what you see above, but either the video was lost in a transfer (I did lose a couple of videos in a transfer glitch) or I simply forgot as I was running around trying to get everything. There are a few instances of the latter, where I could swear that I had filmed something, but it was nowhere to be found on my camera when I was on the flight back home. At least Amusement Expo is coming up in March 😛

Universal Space (UNIS) had a nice little section of VR games that was entirely dedicated to kids. This was a little bit of a change from last year however, when they were promoting the Virtuix Omni Arena and a couple of other games from their “Fun With VR” line.

There were a few Chinese companies around with VR titles, but either I was walking in the wrong spots or there were not as many obvious VR setups as I had seen in the past. In previous years, it was easy to find those odd egg-seat VR games and I don’t recall seeing very many of those this time. I am also fairly certainly that the one booth I saw shut down on Friday was a Chinese company with a few VR products at the booth.

Given the strong focus that is on VR in our industry right now, I’m a little surprised that Stern Pinball didn’t have a home VR setup running Pinball Arcade. That’s ok though – real pinball beats virtual (console or VR) every time.

I had hoped to see more Augmented Reality ideas out and about, but I suppose that will have to continue to wait.

I also did come across the i-Bowl Dinos, a new video bowling game by Brazilian bowling company Imply, although unfortunately they didn’t feel that the software was ready to show off, so it was display only. It looks like it will give Lane Master a run for it’s money, the smoke-spewing volcano working as a nice touch.

What’s Next?

Some of these games are shipping now, while others will be out in the beginning of next year. A few might also never see a release, although the number of never-released prototypes tends to be small (sometimes in the area of 1-3 games?).

The next trade show takes place in January, with EAG in London. It tends to be a smaller repeat of IAAPA, with a few Euro-focused titles; same with the Vegas-based Amusement Expo in March. February sees the Japanese market pull out all of the stops for their market with JAEPO, although titles shown there rarely make it to the US market apart from Round1USA (one exception this coming year will be the Exa-Arcadia platform). 

It’s going to be an exciting year for amusement in 2019 – be sure to go out and play when you get the chance.


One Comment »

  1. sDiego December 20, 2018 at 10:57 am - Reply

    I can attest to your comment on the show floor size. We did every row up and down on day 1 including the outside stuff. My Apple watch showed 9.8 miles walked that day.

    I was anxious to try the VRsenal stuff out as I felt it would be a good fit for an arcade set up, however, EVERY time we walked by their booth they were fixing at least one of the units. Never a good sign when you spend 80% of the time on the show floor fixing your products right there in the booth. At one point they had a laptop hooked up to two cabinets (IIRC the predator one) and a mountain of tools spread across their tables.

    I saw a lot of Hologate knock offs floating around on the floor as well.

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