Aug 26 2023 MIXED / Kevin Williams Image: KWP
The Integration of XR in the Attractions and Amusement Industry: The Rise of VR eSports
In this second installment of our latest column for MIXED, we delve into the world of competitive play within the location-based entertainment scene. eSports, in particular, has gained immense popularity, with dedicated entertainment venues being built to cater to the growing demand for competitive gaming. However, the roots of this digital competition can be traced back to other forms of out-of-home entertainment.
Competitive gaming has long been a part of the amusement industry, from arcade tournaments featuring games like “Street Fighter II” to the Evolution Championship Series (EVO), a fighting game tournament that began in 1996. What started as arcade competitions has evolved into a global eSports phenomenon, with games like “DOTA” and “Counter Strike” driving this competitive sport forward, backed by commercial applications.
In Japan, eSports competitions within the amusement industry have flourished, with companies like TAITO and KONAMI fielding their own teams. Internationally, eSports is supported by platforms like Twitter, Instagram, Twitch, and YouTube, along with live championship events. The sense of community that surrounds eSports generates support for favorite teams and players, leading to sponsorships and promotion of live events, teams, and competitions. It is estimated that over 1.27 billion hours of eSports content is watched globally.
The rise of eSports has given birth to a new breed of athletes – virtual athletes dedicated to competitive video gaming, whether as part of a team or as solo players. While much of the coverage in the gaming industry has focused on home players, eSports is also about the physical element of live competition. Many eSports events begin with online heats between consumer players, but the championships and tournament finals are held as physical events in dedicated venues, driving interest in location-based entertainment.
The amusement industry has always embraced competitive entertainment and tournament gaming, dating back to the days of bowling and mini-golf. The success of games like Incredible Technologies’ “Golden Tee Golf” and Play Mechanix’s “Big Buck Hunter” paved the way for eSports, with big sponsorships, streamed events, and substantial cash prizes for top players. These early successes foreshadowed the growth of eSports as we know it today.
In our previous coverage, we explored the integration of standalone VR systems in existing entertainment venues. Now, we shift our attention to dedicated environments created specifically for eSports VR. These cutting-edge venues are at the forefront of the evolving entertainment landscape, offering unique and immersive experiences centered around VR competitive play.
One such example is EVA (Esports Virtual Arenas), which has over 25 venues in Europe and one in America. These venues feature 500m² arenas capable of accommodating up to 10 players. They utilize VR hardware such as the ‘HTC Focus 3’ headsets, supported by a Wifi6E setup that eliminates the need for backpack PCs. These large-scale arena competitions pit teams of players against each other, with games like the EVA original ‘After-H Battle Arena’ providing thrilling battlegrounds for intense competition and spectator sport. The EVA system is also used as a pop-up tournament platform at exhibitions and local events, and their ‘EVA League 1’ offers a €10,000 cash prize for VR athletes, covered on Twitch TV.
Another notable example is the ‘H20 VR Gaming Campus’ in Amsterdam, which offers a permanent arena space alongside SimRacing, AR arenas, and VR escape gaming. Their 22x20m VR eSports arena, developed in partnership with VR Nederlands, can accommodate up to 30 players at a time. Utilizing the latest games like ‘RE:COIL’ and the ‘HTC Focus 3’ headsets, this venue offers a wide selection of active immersive entertainment alongside their live eSports tournaments.
Veteran developers of free-roaming VR locations have also recognized the potential of incorporating competitive games into their offerings. Zero Latency, one of the first VR arena developers, has launched ‘Sol Raiders,’ a team-based competitive experience for up to eight players. The game is available across over 70 venues running their platform. Similarly, Sandbox VR, with over 40 venues, has introduced ‘Unbound Fighting League’ (UFL), a player-versus-player (PVP) game experience based on their VR free-roaming arena platform. This game experience allows players to compete on leaderboards, adding a competitive element that enhances audience retention.
Lightning VR, a developer and operator of free-roaming VR arenas, is also introducing a new game experience called ‘Center Mass.’ This combat-based player-versus-player game accommodates up to eight players (two teams of four) and includes a competitive eSports element. This means that venue-based tournaments and in-game viewing from the location or live online will be incorporated, providing an immersive and engaging experience for both players and spectators.
The association with eSports has not escaped the attention of major brands. Red Bull, for instance, has established a chain of ‘Red Bull Gaming Sphere’ eSports competition and streaming venues worldwide, including one in London. They have even partnered with VR headset developer PICO to create a unique mixed reality booth, allowing players to compete in VR games and be placed directly into the virtual experience through chroma key compositing. Competitions held at these venues can be streamed worldwide, increasing their reach and visibility.
In the realm of out-of-home XR entertainment, VR is not the only technology embracing competitive play. Mixed Reality (MR) and Augmented Reality (AR) platforms are also making their mark. These technologies…
The integration of XR into the attractions and amusement industry has paved the way for an exciting new era of competitive gaming. VR eSports, in particular, has seen tremendous growth, with dedicated venues springing up to cater to the demand for immersive competitive experiences. The combination of physical and virtual elements in these venues creates an unparalleled entertainment experience for both players and spectators.
It’s inspiring to see how the amusement industry, with its rich history of competitive gaming, has embraced the evolution of eSports. From arcade tournaments to global championships, the journey of eSports has been nothing short of remarkable. The rise of VR and its integration into dedicated venues has taken eSports to a whole new level, attracting major brands and offering lucrative opportunities for talented gamers.
As a VR gamer myself, I have witnessed firsthand the excitement and sense of community that surrounds eSports. It’s not just about the game; it’s about the shared experience, the passion, and the thrill of competing against the best. The emergence of VR eSports has opened up new possibilities for both players and fans, and I believe we are just scratching the surface of what this industry can become.
VR Game News is committed to keeping you informed about the latest developments and trends in VR gaming. Stay tuned for more exciting updates and be sure to check out VR Game News for the latest news, reviews, and insights in the world of VR gaming.
[VR Game News](https://vrgamenews.com)