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VR Escape Rooms Exploding in Popularity

When I first encountered VR escape rooms, I recognized the unrealized potential. It really held the promise of the Holodeck from Star Trek. A group of people enter an empty room, and they’re transported to fantastic places to solve mysterious puzzles in an action-adventure. Who wouldn’t be blown away?

But the reality didn’t quite live up to the expectation. Each player had their own booth, with a tethered headset, trying to communicate over VOIP connections with long latency. You’d hear your friends over the headsets, then hear their voice echo through the game. And teleportation to move around environments further broke the immersion. To make it worse, the games felt more like treasure hunts than real logic puzzles.

Escape room players dismissed them as video games. And video gamers didn’t find enough action to make them compelling. That all changed with vrCAVE.

I remember first trying their games at IAAPA in 2018 when they were using backpack PCs. Our group was trying to repair a space station in zero gravity while dodging meteorites before the big one struck and wiped-out Earth. It felt surprisingly epic considering the small space the four of us occupied.

Fast forward to 2024, and vrCAVE has transformed the escape room landscape. They ditched the backpacks and went to headsets only, which reduced the cost of deployment by about 90%, increasing the ROI accordingly. They also are the only company in the market that offers an exclusive territory for a few thousand dollars license fee. It’s a show of commitment to the success of their operators.

That commitment comes back to them in the form of loyalty and appreciation from their customer base, which is comprised of both traditional escape room owners and VR arcade owners.

Above: Atomic Escape Rooms still uses backpack PCs, which vrCAVE continue to support.

Julie Wright, from Atomic Escape Rooms, loves the space efficiency, “I can take one space, one 15 x 20 space, and I can put five different escape rooms in there. How often do you have an interchangeable escape room where the same group can come back to that same square footage repeatedly.”

Repeatability

Repeat play is a mantra I keep hearing from operators. From what I have researched vrCAVE offers some of the highest levels in the VR world.

“The VR experiences people are accustomed to, like rollercoasters, are never so involving,” remarked Angel Delgado from VR Escape Rooms in Puerto Rico. “The way they interact with each other —when they take the headset off, they’re really pleased with that, and they want to go again”.

Julie Wright concurs, “People will come out of the VR rooms, they’ll say ‘that was so fun, when can I sign up for another one?’ They are addicted when they come out. After one time. They’re saying, “I was blown away.”

I’ve been tracking VR gameplay across multiple different content platforms for years. Most companies tell me they have 2-3 games that comprise about 70-80% of their total gameplay. vrCAVE has the most evenly distributed play data across a library that I’ve seen, suggesting that player do come back to play multiple games over time.

Team Building

Great team building experiences can be a boon to a group sales team. Schools and HR departments are looking for things that get people moving and working together.

Above: Players test their team skills at Lockdown Escape Rooms in Alberta, Canada.

“What we like about vrCAVE is that there are physical team-building aspects to their escape rooms,” says Tammy Oliver-McCurdie, of Lockdown Escape Rooms. “Their games are not just logic; players are engaged throughout the entire thing.”

Delgado from Puerto Rico concurs, “Schools, we do schools. It’s kinda awesome to watch. For the teachers, it’s very important because they see the way the kids can cooperate with each other and following instructions.  it demands teamwork, leadership, and critical thinking. You can bring your team, and really see the person, what skills, what needs to be fixed, or who’s ready for more responsibility.”

New Games Keep Coming

vrCAVE has steadily increased their content library, promising to release their 8th game at the upcoming VR Arcade Game Summit. But what impresses is their commitment to their older systems and games. While many companies force their operators to convert to the latest hardware, VR Cave released their 8th game, Ninja Trials, for their older PCVR sites first (the standalone version for all-in-one headsets ships April 1.) And they’ve updated their older games with new graphics to make sure they are optimized for the latest hardware. Many suppliers try force upgrades to reduce the support and development costs. It’s impressive to see a company maintain its comm commitment to their older systems and games.

Above: vrCAVE’s Latest Game – Ninja Trials

vrCAVE is a company and product I recommend to pretty much any location. If you’re interested in learning more, why not come to the VR Arcade Operator’s User Group on March 18th at the VR Arcade Summit in Las Vegas. It’s part of the education program at Amusement Expo International.

I receive no compensation for endorsing vrCAVE, but feel free to tell them Cooney sent you if you reach out. Or hit me up for an introduction.

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