Today, we are going to discuss one of the first and most effective marketing strategies I observed when I began working in the VR Industry. This simple strategy would bring 50-60 people into my arcade in a matter of minutes.
So, let’s rewind a little - In our humble beginnings, we were the very first company to open a VR Arcade in the United States. I wandered past this arcade shortly after its opening, got excited by the idea, and asked the manager for a job - I was refused, believe it or not. However, me being… well, me, I brought in a resume the next day and received a call later that week with a job offer.
When they called, they told me there was one condition before I could begin working in the arcade: I first had to manage their VR haunted house attraction in downtown Salt Lake City for a few months. Even though Salt Lake was roughly an hour away, I excitedly agreed, and spent many late nights at this haunted attraction, laughing with my employees at how genuinely terrified people were when they experienced virtual reality horror.
Why was it so effective?
It’s simple: Regular haunted houses are more of a “fun” experience you do with your friends. VR Haunted houses isolate you - They cut off your senses from the real world, and as far as your sight and hearing are concerned, you are actually in an abandoned house being chased by a possessed little girl. Throw in some 4-D effects like wind, smell, touch, and you have something truly special; something most people have never done before.
It’s like watching the scariest movie you can imagine - except you’re completely alone, and you’re in the movie. Naturally, the reactions were nothing short of priceless. I would share videos with my friends of customers shrieking and screaming, and they couldn’t get enough of it.
So how does this apply to marketing your arcade?
A great question. What’s the point of this story? The point is, when we’d get a bunch of people going through this experience, screaming at the top of their lungs, we would attract HUGE crowds, and our entrance lines would extend outside of the park.
This is what I refer to as “in-plain-sight” marketing. When I finally went to work at that arcade, I brought this idea with me. If a 12-year-old kid wanted to play the haunted house, I would always put them in the booth right next to the store entrance. Doing this, it wouldn’t take long for the entire arcade to fill up with curious people. From there, all it takes is a couple shots at someone’s pride to convince them to try it themselves.
This doesn’t have to be done exclusively with “jump-scare” experiences either. Plenty of other titles can offer the same results, as long as they provide similar levels of intensity. Some titles I’ve personally used for this include: Affected: The Manor (or any other scary game), Richie’s Plank Experience, The Brookhaven Experiment, Island 359, Ghost Town Mine Ride, Battle Dome, and more - the list goes on.
Why is VR so unique? Because it transforms reality. It manipulates your senses and makes you believe you’re in a new world, a new dimension - and it does it well. Do with that information what you will - if you can effectively sell this concept to potential customers, you’ll see your revenues increase dramatically.
People are much more inclined to believe something like this, and act on it, when they see someone else experiencing it right in front of them.
Have you ever gotten upset with one of your employees for playing VR on the clock? Probably - I have. But maybe, just maybe, there’s an opportunity here - If it’s a slow weekday, throw one of your employees into the front booth in your arcade, put them in an action-packed/intense game, and wait for the crowds to gather. From there, it’s up to you and your selling abilities to convince those people to try it themselves.
Believe me, it works.