Niche technologies gaining traction in today’s amusement landscape| Commentary

Ctrl V, expanding its VR arcades, will allow operations to participate in the blockchain and earn additional revenue. Image courtesy of Ctrl V

Heading into the summer, innovation continues in the amusement scene at a record pace. Recent developments include notable movements in what might be considered some “secondary” trends: blockchain technology, AR/MR gamification, capsule vending and licensing.

Crypto and blockchain on the move

Cryptocurrency and blockchain technology continue to make waves in the amusement business.

Warner Music Group recently entered a partnership with Splinterlands, a specialist in blockchain game development, to develop a first-of-its-kind “play-to-earn” arcade-style blockchain game.

WMG will see its artists develop unique P2E games that will incorporate NFTs and be distributed only in an out-of-home gaming format, not for consumer deployment, running on the Decentralized Autonomous Organization app “Splinterlands” with an estimated 1.8 million registered users .

This will employ tokenized games, unlocking new revenue streams for the artists, and allowing fans to be part of the experiencing through the P2E element. The arcade-style-games will be available only through amusement venues and details are still limited, with more information expected soon.

In other blockchain developments, VR arcade operation Ctrl V will be adding a cryptocurrency mining program to its franchise offering. This will allow facility operators to use their VR PC hardware to franchise cryptocurrency mining, enabling operations to participate in the blockchain and earn additional revenue.

Ctrl V was one of the first operations to establish the modern VR arcade model, with its chain of franchised Canadian venues. The franchisor is now offering a means for their operators, coming out of a considerable lockdown period in the country, to maximize their down time and enter the cryptocurrency revenue scene. It is expected others will be following their lead.

AR/MR gamification makes strides

The ability to offer retail operators an entertainment option has seen AR, MR and gamification technology attempt to offer a strong revenue solution.

Darabase, an outdoor media company, and Bewonder, a brand and digital services specialist, recently partnered to open “Up Your Alley,” an AR bowling game and retail experience that sees its first opening in a vacant retail unit at the Churchill Square shopping center in Brighton, UK

Encouraged by signage on the unit, patrons can scan a QR code on their smartphone and then take part in an AR bowling experience. Scores appear on a leader board, and high scorers can earn a £50 ($67) gift card. This is the same shopping mall in Brighton that plays host to the ImmotionVR virtual reality arcade.

Mixed reality, which is also defined as cross, extended or extreme reality, has continued to gain momentum, accelerated by the latest projection and screen technology, thus alleviating the need for head-mounted displays and offering the level of immersion of placing the guest in the digital experience in a physical space.

Projection mapping and immersive enclosures have been seeing an increased investment in recent months, especially the sports-related applications, such as Toco Social, Electronic Gamebox and the Clays social entertainment (“competitive socializing”) venues.

‘Vendertainment’ strikes back

An aspect of the post-COVID market has been the appearance of “capsule vending” — best illustrated in the Japanese market that has seen an explosion in deployment. A perfusion of vending capsule arcades has blossomed in malls, offering a safer business for those corporations suffering from the privations of lockdown.

Capsule vending (called “gachapon” machines) offers a simple stock-item, a cheap toy purchase for families, along with a collectability element (monthly updated toys offered). The business can chart its history in the market back some 57-years, although this year sees the largest growth rate.

Japanese amusement factory Bandai Namco Amusement has amassed a chain of some 20 of the “gachapon” capsule vending businesses (the company opened a flagship facility in Ikebukuro, during 2021, with a record 3,000 machines).

The market is in continued growth in the territory with the announcement that operation Luluarq is expanding its over-140 capsule toy venue business, Gacha. These businesses are superseding profits during this period from more conventional amusement.

IP and brand licensing

Merchandising and prize elements are an important part of the guest experience and the takeaway, and embracing the latest IP and brands is essential.

Whitehouse Leisure recently introduced a range of licensed merchandising items, prizes and plush. This included official licensed products for IP holders such as Marvel, Walt Disney, Universal, Sony, Dreamworks and others.

An under-reported skill for many facility operators is the ability to populate their prize center and crane games with the latest merchandising to draw guests to try their skills. In a constantly changing fashion parade, this year’s hot-ticket-items seem to be Sonic and Jurassic World.

The use of videogame IPs to sell merchandising and products has continued apace.

The hunger from streaming services for content has seen a number look towards specially commissioned programs based on well-known videogame IPs. Along with Sonic, the character from the smash game “Cuphead,” published and developed by independent Studio MDHR, turned into an animated series, has taken Netflix by storm with “The Cuphead Show,” the latest investment in unique content.

Meanwhile, the toy division of Lego has started to roll out a selection of toy kits based on the “Horizon” console videogame.

Such “secondary” elements as those discussed above could move the amusement and entertainment experiences in new directions.

(Editor’s note: Extracts from this blog are from recent coverage in The Stinger Report, published by Spider Entertainment and its director, Kevin Williams, the leading interactive out-of-home entertainment news service covering the immersive frontier and beyond.)

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