VR is booming as an entertainment form, and is developing in three major directions. In Part 3, we will be introducing the biggest VR spots in Japan, as well as considering the future of these public VR facilities.
“Test the limits of your courage! Hanechari (Winged Bicycle)”
■Cooperative Sports Type－“Ghost in the Shell: Arise Stealth Hounds”
Although it only opened on July 14, VR Zone Shinjuku(Tokyo) is one of the biggest VR spots in Japan.
With the aim of “losing yourself,” you can enjoy up to 15 attractions in this huge, over 3500 square meter VR space.
VR Zone Shinjuku
Out of all the attractions we tried while we were there, our personal favorite was “Test the limits of your courage! Hanechari (Winged Bicycle)”. This attraction allows you to ride a bicycle equipped with wings to take part in fierce mid-air races－simply pedal to get lift in this surprisingly real experience. Although soaring through the air on your winged bike is immensely enjoyable, we were sweating buckets; all it takes is one wrong move and you’ll go plummeting straight down! Set at tremendous heights, you get to experience both vertigo and the pure bliss that comes with flying.
“Test the limits of your courage! Hanechari (Winged Bicycle)”Off the cliff we go…!
©BANDAI NAMCO Entertainment Inc.
We would like to introduce next, the cooperative sports type VR attraction, “Futuristic War Arena－Ghost in the Shell: Arise Stealth Hounds”, planned to be released this month. Ghost in the Shell is a survival-shooting game set in the not so distant future. Eight players are split into two four player teams－a corps under the order of Ghost in the Shell’s heroine, Motoko Kusanagi, and a terrorist group. These teams then face off against each other in battles which take place over a 20m by 12m space.
The biggest feature of the attraction is the camouflage ability which is taken straight from the manga. Players can make themselves invisible, but this does not make them invincible. Players can be traced via sound, so fire your weapon once and your location will be sabotaged! Stealth battles unfold in this manner as you try and conceal your location while trying to track down the enemy. We can’t wait for this one.
A shot of the area from“Ghost in the Shell: Arise Stealth Hounds.”
Bandai Namco Entertainment:Yukiharu Tamiya
※※The VR Zone Shinjuku project has Bandai Namco Entertainment at its core. Mr. Tamiya from Bandai Namco Entertainment tells us that VR Zone Shinjuku is designed to be enjoyed by anyone. Their aim is to create an attraction, similar to theme parks such as USJ, where anyone can simply come and enjoy a day full of unique experiences. In a push to attract a wider female demographic, they have partnered with NAKED to add a fabulous light show on the walls and in the entrance with the use of production mapping. With a current 6:4 male to female ratio of customers, they are pushing for even more females to enjoy this VR space.
Production mapping area.
After having conducted many demonstration experiments at numerous limited-time VR events, there is one element of attracting customers that Mr. Tamiya is particular about. The large majority of customers who came to these events were people in their 20s, however for events featuring IPs, such as Votoms, they attracted another large group of customers, this time in their 40s. VR is a media form that cannot be really understood unless it is experienced first-hand, so in order to attract a wider customer base, they have started making VR collaborations with many famous IPs such as Dragon Ball and Evangelion.
Dragon Ball VR:Master the Kamehameha
“Evangelion VR:The Throne of Souls”
Evangelion VR:The Throne of Souls
However, he tells us there were some struggles that came with using IPs.
With original projects, you first design how to make a VR experience that will surprise the user, and then fit the feel of the world to it afterwards. However, with pre-existing IPs, it becomes imperative not to diverge from the feel of the original work. According to Mr. Tamiya, adding VR elements while maintaining this was awfully difficult and the results came from a lengthy trial and error approach.
Through this hard work however, VR Zone Shinjuku is enjoying a large number of customers even on weekdays. Not wishing to rest on this however, looking forward, Mr. Tamiya wants to further secure VR entertainment as a viable market and business.
■What We Learned
What we have found out is that VR is still relatively young as a form of media; the management side while seeming as if it is still finding out how best to approach VR, is also at the same time responding to their customers’ needs as well as diversifying the content and systems they are using. The one merit that VR has in particular is that it requires no space. For the management, costs are a lot more easily controlled compared to an amusement park in real life, and for the users, one benefit is that they don’t have to travel far away in order to experience VR. Surely this new urban based entertainment which grants users a chance to experience the unconventional will continue to attract even more people.
On the other hand however, there are still challenges to be faced. Many forms of VR entertainment offer no replayability, which brings into question the longevity of the content which is required to make users come again. Creators should possibly consider speedrun elements or intermittent immersion in newer attractions.
On top of this, the price of VR is considered rather expensive for young customers.
According to the Fields Yoka Survey*1 that FRI conducted, the age range which most wanted to buy a VRHMD were high school students. We can therefore assume that high school students also wish to experience VR the most out of these groups.
Despite this, the amount of high school students we spotted during our visits to the different facilities was few. A high school student’s average spending money is 7,600 yen per month (according to Fields Yoka Survey). Considering that the average price to go to one of the VR facilities that we have covered is around 3,000 yen, it seems that in order to target high school students there is a need to consider a new pricing scheme or to offer targeted discounts.
Whatever the case, it is clear to see that these VR facilities all hold great potential for the future, and we can’t wait to see what that future has in store.
VR Zone Shinjuku
（※１）Fields Yoka Survey 2017
A web survey carried out in December 2016 which surveyed 11,646 people across the nation from elementary school age to 69 years of age. It queried their behaviors in relation to and their sense of values regarding free time.
・How will TV shows change with IoT and VR? First half
・How will TV shows change with IoT and VR? Second half
・”Japanese Amusement Expo” report －3 new trends－ Second half
(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.