katya-stepanov

VR World NYC is a new VR arcade that opened on June 24th in New York City right next to the Empire State Building. They have three floors with 55 different VR experiences, and they’re using an all-you-eat buffet business model of paying $39-$49 to have unlimited access to play all of the available experiences. It’s a great opportunity for tourists and New York residents to get their first room-scale and 360 VR experiences, but it also has a bar, plenty of places to hang out, as well as a number of different multi-player social VR experiences.

Drew-ArnoldI happened to be in New York for the grand opening of VR World, and had a chance to catch up with Chief Creative Officer Drew Arnold and HR Manager Katya Stepanov to talk about the process of experiential design and curation of VR experiences. I also had a chance to check out the IMAX VR experiences at the AMC IMAX theater, as well as see The VOID’s Ghostbusters VR experience at Madame Tussauds Wax Museum

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The challenge for a business like VR World is to market themselves to first-time users and foot traffic of casual tourists who are willing to explore for a couple of hours, but also have a streamlined system for if and when they do get really popular to still have it be a good user experience. They have a queuing system where you can sign up for a single VR experience if it’s busy, and then you can try out one of the other 50+ experiences that don’t have a line. But if they have too many people and get too popular, then they’re going to face what most VR events & digital out-of-home experiences struggle with is throughput and long lines. But they’re using an innovative approach of buying access to every experience, and then not trying to overplay or schedule it from there.

Other VR arcade options like IMAX VR has the approach where you have to buy individual $10 tickets for each experience that you do. IMAX VR also tends to have a number of premiere experiences not generally available yet, as well as some special VR equipment like DBOX chairs or a helicopter platform simulator with StarVR HMDs for The Mummy VR experience.

Both Sundance and Tribeca have moved to models where you have carte blanche access to all of the available experiences for a limited time, and this is a great blend of scheduled and unscheduled time that I feel like works really well for VR. There’s a certain amount of unpredictability for when a VR experience will begin or end, and having carte blanche access makes it so that you’re not constantly evaluating whether or not the individual experience that you’re having was worth the money that paid for it. With carte blanche access, it sometimes becomes more of question of is it worth waiting for other people to finish an individual experience, but overall you tend to feel like you got your money’s worth when you get to have a variety of different experiences.

VR World is perfect for first-time VR users or even for existing VR owners who want to try out a number of different commercially-available experiences without having to purchase them yourself. The price of admission is about what it would cost to purchase a single high-end VR experience, and there are plenty of the most popular VR experiences available to play. There are also a few experiences that use unique hardware peripherals that you’re likely not going to have at home, and I’d expect to see more and more of these types of experiences over time.

If you know anyone who is traveling to or who lives in New York who is interested in trying out VR for the first time, then VR World is the perfect place to send them. It’s located at 4 East 34th Street, and is open from 11am to 11pm Tuesday to Sunday and extended hours to 1am on the weekends.

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