The “Japan Amusement Expo 2017” (JAEPO), a festival for arcade games (those at game centers), was hosted at Makuhari Messe from February 10th to the 12th.
■Pickup 3: Arcade VR (virtual reality) games
There was a lot of hype for these games, and many people lined up to try them. They have already sold VR games for console and PC which has helped them gather a lot of attention, and now arcade versions of VR games have come out at last.
Multiple companies put on exhibits, but the one that showcased the most VR games was Bandai Namco Entertainment. There were huge line ups for all of their games. They were just demo versions, but VR games like “Fear of Heights Show,” where you have to save a cat from the top of a skyscraper, and “Gundam VR Daiba Assault” were very immersive and impactful. “Fear of Heights Show” was especially terrifying…
Also, Bandai Namco showed off their VR arcade game, “Doraemon VR Anywhere Door” (*1).
Bandai Namco Entertainment’s VR ZONE
“Gundam VR Daiba Assault“ (Bandai Namco Entertainment) ©Sotsu・Sunrise
“Gundam VR Daiba Assault” screen (Bandai Namco Entertainment)
“Fear of Heights Show” Screen (Bandai Namco Entertainment) ©BANDAI NAMCO Entertainment Inc.
On the other side of things, Koei Tecmo Wave’s “VR Sense” was gathering a lot of attention. It is a VR game cabinet. There are always incredible lines to have a trial play, even on business days. After two hours of waiting, I finally reached the front of the line.
It was booth shaped, and in addition to the head-mounted display, sheets “moved” in time with actions. Also, it is equipped with functions to provide “smells,” “wind,” “temperature changes,” and “mist.”
“VR Sense” (Koei Tecmo Wave)
This version was only a trial, so only the movement of the sheets and wind functions were active. There were three game demos, but I only got to play the horror game “Mr. Daruma Fell Down,” and the action game “Dynasty Warriors.” The sheets moved more steadily than expected, and I could feel the wind. It was very realistic. (So as to not provide misleading statements, the VR machine is a similar sensation to 4DX movies.) Apparently the staff worked hard to synchronize all of the functions.
“Mr. Daruma Fell Down,” as may be gleaned from the title, has a horror taste about it, but it really makes you feel like you want to beat the game, too. The feeling of being surrounded by enemies “Dynasty Warriors” is also satisfying.
The booth is smaller than it feels. There are many VR booths with large booths, but this one also provides merits for the game centers who have to find room to put it.
“VR Sense” is set to be released in the summer this year.
The game center VR machines on display as a whole had incredibly high immersion. I played a dome style game where the whole dome is a screen, but compared to that the booths are even more immersive. They exceed typical games in their impact and realism.
Console VR games have been shown to have high hardware costs and they make players tired easily, so being able to play VR games for a short time at a VR arcade seems to be the ideal place for the technology.
There are some problem though. One staff member needs to be dedicated to just a few machines to take care of equipping the head mounted display, and watching over people’s personal items during their play time. Additionally, in comparison to the play time, the time it takes to mount the display and wait in line leads to a lot of stress.
The VR exhibitions showed much promise, and some potential issues.
■The future of arcade games
I have frequented game centers for a long while. At this JAEPO, I felt as though nothing has changed since 10 or 20 years ago. If you like video games though, the feeling of fun, comfort, and excitement from being surrounded by the dissonance and disorder of the arcade also will not change.
I don’t know much in the way of modern day recommendations, but the anticipation and sense of new fun to be had are there.
The market is influenced by children, and there are some reductionist trends in the industry, but there is still a lot of potential. The expo made my stomach swell with a sense of excitement.
“Japan Amusement Expo”
(*1) “Doraemon VR Anywhere Door”
(Article by: Kenichi Nakamura)
Fields Research Institute (FRI) conducts research in entertainment.
This article was written by a member of FRI, through the original coverage of his/her interests observed in their daily lives.