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Lights, Camera, VR: Hollywood Streams into Virtual Reality Arcades

Lights, Camera, VR: Hollywood Streams into Virtual Reality Arcades

The relationship between Hollywood and video games is a long and complicated one. Fans want more ways to interact with their favorite characters and storylines. Studios want to create more revenue from their investment in intellectual property. And game developers see IP licensing as a means to cut through the noise in a competitive market.

Everybody wants to be a ghostbuster; there’s hardly a Halloween when I don’t see someone dressed as Egon, Peter, or Ray. Sony Pictures licensed Ghostbusters to The VOID in 2017, leading to an entire floor of Madame Tussauds in Times Square becoming a homage to the 1984 classic. Players donned a backpack computer that became a Proton Pack in the game.

VR at this level is about fantasy fulfillment. Unlike traditional video games, where players control a character on the screen, you ARE the character in VR. You embody them, and your movements and actions become theirs. It’s why we will continue to see cross-licensed content hitting the VR arcade game market.

Just this last year, we’ve seen Harry Potter from Dreamscape, Squid Game announced by Sandbox VR, Warhammer is coming this year from Zero Latency, Ghostbuster’s VR Academy just released to Hologate, and Zombieland Arcade from VRsenal is shipping worldwide.

The nice thing about well-known Hollywood IP is that it immediately sets the adventure’s context. When you get behind the wheel of the prototype Ecto-1 in Ghostbuster’s VR Academy, you know exactly who you are and why you’re there. You don’t need a long pre-show video to explain everything.

For operators, there’s also massive marketing leverage. Here’s how Sony Pictures’ marketing promoted the most recent Ghostbusters: Afterlife film.

The movie was initially scheduled to release in the summer of 2020, but Sony decided to hold the release until theaters started recovering from the pandemic. The first trailer dropped in December 2019 and scored more than 20 million views on YouTube. Actors began appearing on the talk show circuit, and by April, another teaser trailer was released, showing the Stay-Puft character garnering another two million YouTube views.

Ghostbuster’s VR Academy

Then on June 8, Ghostbusters Day (the anniversary of the original movie release), Sony arranged for a host of events.

  • The cast and crew of the movie took fan questions via Twitter
  • New consumer products and merchandise promotions were launched
  • Ivan Reitman and Bill Murray took to YouTube to discuss whether or not Ghostbusters Day is an official holiday

By October, promotions were in full swing, with an appearance on the Halloween edition of the Kelly Clarkson show, theater chains releasing the movie posters on social media, and another trailer hitting YouTube gathering three million additional views. Star Paul Rudd made the talk show rounds. As the premiere approached, Randy’s Donuts in LA saw lines around the block to pick up Ghostbuster-themed donuts from the Ecto-1.

The cast and crew finally walked the Red Carpet for the premiere in New York City before Bill Murray, Ernie Hudson, and Dan Ackroyd appeared on the Tonight Show to talk about reuniting after all these years.

These are just the online social marketing campaigns that Sony produced. It doesn’t include traditional media like TV, outdoor, or the millions of movie trailer views on-screen and online. I don’t know how many media impressions Sony marshaled with this multi-channel marketing blitz. Studios will spend up to 100% of the cost of making the movie to market it.

Ghostbusters is one of the crown jewels of Sony Pictures’ IP catalog. There’s talk of an animated streaming series on Netflix, and nDreams, one of the best VR developers in the business, is working on a AAA home VR title. With all the chatter about too many zombie games, Ghostbusters offers a family-friendly horror-lite experience that works in any location.

The flying Ecto-1 prototype — only available on the Hologate Blitz platform
The flying Ecto-1 prototype — only available on the Hologate Blitz platform

With the sequel to Ghostbusters: Afterlife scheduled for release on December 20, expect the marketing blitz to begin this summer. Hologate is releasing the Ghostbusters VR Academy to their network of more than 400 sites on March 27, with plenty of time for operators to leverage Sony’s marketing machine.

Who you gonna call?

Bob joins the Ghostbusters VR Academy at IAAPA London
Bob joins the Ghostbusters VR Academy at IAAPA London

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