The dream of starting a VR arcade can seem like a wonderful ambition, and has been for many people who have had the opportunity to fully realize that dream. But don’t let your dream overcome your rationale when starting out - many have, and many have failed as a result.
In other words, make sure your dream (or your “vision” as I would say) is backed by rational, measurable goals, and make sure those goals are supported by well-researched plans. Vision, Goal, Plan. That’s the time-tested roadmap to success.
Today’s article is aimed at preventing aspiring VR arcade owners from making crippling decisions that may not seem obvious right away. We are going to talk about some of the most common reasons VR Arcades fail.
There is absolutely nothing more powerful than this. If your arcade is not in a location with decently-high foot traffic, it will be more likely to fail.
I shouldn’t have to tell you why. We all know the age-old issue with VR arcade marketing - people do not realize how amazing VR is until they have tried it. So why would someone go out of their way to visit a VR arcade? The truth is, they won’t - not for their first time anyways. Ever wonder why VR arcade return-customer rates are so high? Well, this is exactly why.
As this is being written, the optimal VR Arcade scenario is as follows:
You are positioned in an area with high foot traffic. People are walking by because they’re either shopping or looking to waste time - usually, they want to be sold on something. You “reel them in” with unique and catchy posters or advertisements in front of the arcade (haunted house is my personal favorite - nothing sells people like telling them they’re too scared to try it). You bring them into the arcade and use sales/retail tactics to finish selling them. They play, they get hooked. You tell them to bring their friends in next time for a group-party discount. All the while, people outside are watching this, fascinated - don’t forget them, because all they probably need to be sold is a friendly “come on in and try it!”
The basic principle is this - when opening a VR arcade, no matter how much marketing presence you have online or wherever else, the ball that will get you started largely remains in your court - not the customer’s. You have to make it easy, convenient, and accessible for them. Only after they’ve tried it once are they more likely to make a special trip to play VR in the future.
Location, location, location. This is one of the most well-tested and proven success-factors in the VR arcade industry. If you build a high-quality, flashy VR arcade in an area where a lot of people are walking by, odds are you’re going to do quite well.
2) Poor Marketing
Note - When I say “marketing,” I’m not only referring to external efforts like social media, SEO, newspaper ads, etc. In fact, I’m largely referring to the on-site marketing you do at the location itself.
This point goes hand-in-hand with the first one, and is almost entirely useless without it. The ultimate point to be made is this - Marketing in the VR Arcade industry is a tricky feat. There is still ridicult room for growth and improvement - the industry is still not that large, and residential VR has yet to begin competing with console gaming. Even when it does, it won’t be easy for friends to conveniently play VR together without a VR arcade.
Why so tricky? Well, we already concluded that people still need to actually play VR to be sold on it. Remember when Willy Wonka created a marketing tool that allowed you to reach your hand into the TV and try his chocolate for yourself? That’s pretty much the level we need to be on. The severe problem is that many people try “phone VR” and think they’ve actually tried VR - which, we all know, they haven’t. But how are they supposed to know that?
The above point needs to be taken seriously by every arcade owner. I’ve heard countless people voice this as a reason to not visit a VR arcade. They need to understand that saying “I don’t want to try this because I’ve already tried VR on my phone” is the same as saying “I don’t want to try the PS4 because I’ve already played video games on my phone.” Your marketing efforts need to be largely-focused on overcoming this concern, this misconception.
So how is that done? One of the better things you can do is focus on game-specific marketing efforts.
“Come and play VR!”
No one cares. That’s a boring statement now and it doesn't appeal to a lot of people.
“Have you ever wondered what it’s like to actually be in the scariest horror movie you’ve watched?”
“Have you ever dreamt of becoming a 1,000-foot-tall monster and wrecking havoc upon the cities of earth?”
“When you and your friends put this on, you will be transported to a post-apocalyptic world, where you have to fend off wave after wave of terrifying zombies.”
“What if you could take your date to Paris in 5 minutes, walk the streets, stand on the Eiffel tower together, for only $10?”
Those may be a bit long, but you get my point - when you allow your target-markets to actually “visualize” what they’re able to do in VR, it gets them excited. When you say generic things like “come play VR,” that sells no one.
So remember - marketing for the sake of marketing is just a waste of money. Know your audience, and know what motivates them to try it. The best and most effective marketing I’ve seen is almost always at the front of the arcade, in the form of a “VR Haunted House: We DARE You” poster (etc). Because, going along with this article’s first point, your number-one goal is NOT to get first-time customers to make special trips to your arcade. You need to BE where the traffic already is, not the other way around. Once you’re there, THAT is where the marketing needs to be most effective. Sell the thousands of people that walk by you every day - not the occasional social media viewers that you targeted.
I could go on and on about marketing. There are all sorts of unique strategies, some work better than others. I’ve seen just about everything possible tried. At the end of the day, it always comes down to capturing the attention of foot-traffic. All you need to do is get someone to play ONCE. Just once. The odds of that person making a special trip back after their first time playing are so exponentially higher than before, and higher than some random person seeing an ad and planning a special trip before ever playing.
3) Competent Employees
Like the other two points, this really isn’t that hard - but if neglected, it’ll bring your arcade down quickly. If you’ve read any of the other blog articles, this has come up before. Let ‘s quickly talk about the main points though:
Employees need to know the games. This is one of the single most important contributors to a high throughput. Allow your employees to take time to learn the games. If it’s a slow day, put an employee in the booth closest to the front to attract attention. The better they understand the content of the games, the quicker they will be at solving in-game issues, which is where many of your customer issues will be.
Employees need to be problem-solvers. As a client success manager, my first question in response to client issues is almost always, “did you try restarting it?” I’m amazed how often the answer is no, and equally amazed how often that fixes the issue. Look for employees that try to figure things out for themselves first, rather than immediately moving the problem up to a manager.
Employees need to be sociable. I get it, a teenager may want to check his phone or do other teenager things at work occasionally. But nothing is more frustrating than watching a customer walk up to an employee and seeing the employee NOT giving them their full, undivided attention. I don’t care who you are, no one is above the customer in the world of free-market capitalism. Take interest in your customer. The more you can make them feel like they belong, the higher the chance they’ll be back.
Employees need to be a little salesy. This can get tricky without proper incentives, but there is a HUGE untouched market of walk-by traffic that stands outside the arcade, wondering if they should try it or not. And I mean huge. If you have employees that are trained on how to bring those people in, you’ll be amazed how much better you do. I’m not saying to have someone stand outside the store running people down, but you get the idea.
That’s pretty much it. It doesn’t have to be much more complicated than that, just do your best to hire competent employees. They come in every age, believe me.
Success or failure is almost always measured by the small and simple things. I am all-too-often amazed at how much that principle is neglected in life. People spend so much time looking at the big picture, the “dream,” and they completely ignore the small things that keep the dream moving. Then, they’re shocked when it just breaks down one day.
The success or failure of your VR Arcade will be largely predicated on small decisions that may seem inconsequential at first. I’ve been in this industry long enough to see what works and what does not, and I’ve learned that you never discount decisions related to any of the above topics. Make the necessary changes to your arcade today, and you’ll see the difference it can make for you.
Many people have successfully realized the dream of owning a Virtual Reality Arcade. There is absolutely no reason you can’t either. We would love to be part of that dream. For more information contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.