In the second part of this comprehensive whitepaper looking at the deployment of VR escape game business, Immersive out-of-home entertainment industry specialist and writer Kevin Williams, looking at the deployment of licensed properties into the VR escape gaming mix, and the development of Escape Room style games exclusively for VR play.
Table of Contents
Licensed VR Escape Games
VR escape games offer a unique and limitless universe for players to immerse themselves within. If that environment can be part of a popular an established Intellectual Property (IP) then the draw is stronger; this has been seen in physical Escape Room business with licensed venues using popular media properties, such as ‘Doctor Who’ or ‘Mission Impossible’.
A major developer in this sector is Ubisoft Escape Games – a division of the major consumer game publisher, this operation has developed unique VR escape games including their first title ‘Escape the Lost Pyramid’ and now their new release ‘Beyond Medusa’s Gate’ – both based in the Assassin’s Creed universes IP.
Tethered VR players in 45+ minute game sessions, supporting two-or-four players experiences within a room-scale space, supported by a game-master. The company making their properties available to FEC, VR arcade and Escape Room businesses under a special licensing franchise.
An example of consumer VR game content developers pivoting to the more believable business environment of commercial entertainment deployment. Virtual Vault – a UK VR developer has moved into the field of developing pure VR escape games, launching with their first title ‘Quarantined’ – placing the player into secretive underground government laboratory the experience takes place following a viral outbreak.
With multiple endings and mysteries to uncover every decision and every minute counts. All the elements of a good Escape Room game written large on the canvas of virtual reality. The company working on their second release for a 2019 launch of ‘Hellevator’.
Fallen Planet Studios – another VR content development house which has turned their consumer development into a profitable VR arcade service. The company launched the original consumer version of their game in 2017, but at the same time started to reach out to VR arcade operators towards including games that are targeted for their unique needs.
The company works with VR arcade content distribution platforms such as SpringboardVR, and CTRL-V, deploying the final version ‘AFFECTED: The Manor’, licensed across some 370 venues. Seen as the originator of much of the haunted house VR style narrative that draws the guest into an atmospheric experience as they walk-though the house. Fallen Planet Studios would go on to partner with UK tech company Ultrahaptics to incorporate their revolutionary mid-air haptic feedback system into an extended version (‘AFFECTED: The Visit’), with a first commercial installation planned for later in the year.
Unique Escape Game Creation
Canadian-based VR developer Phenomena – has broken into the market with ‘Horos’ – an VR escape game that traverses time and space, placing the player in environments that require problem solving to be able to move to the next area, led by their guide “Seni”. The company has developed a pop-up enclosure to deploy the game experience – one or two players able to roam within the space, using a tethered VR system, objects in the space mapped in the virtual world.
The company has previously been involved with an ambitious project with ‘Enter the Duat’, based on Egyptian history, the player traversed an environment based on ancient mythology, able to physically walk in the environment through use of the ‘Kinescape VR Pod’ (a omni-directional treadmill). With hand tracking using ‘VPX’ haptic sensors, allowing the player to interact with the environment, the project seen as an LBE installation.
Spanish-based developer Avatarico – has trailed the application of game content using team-based VR entertainment with numerous sites installing their game coming with lifetime regional licenses and a live support package. With over four different game, titles such as ‘Cosmos’, ‘Mind Horror’ and ‘Alice in Wonderland’ offer strong co-operative gameplay through puzzle solving and teamwork.
With their first title ‘Cosmos’ – up to six-players using a tethered system, tracking players hands explore the unique environment dealing with puzzles and defending themselves from robots. Their system, offering a cost-effective package to operators, with more than 100-centers operating their games.
Development studio ARVI Lab, has created some seven experiences that run off the company’s own ‘Reactor’ technology. Supporting tethered VR hardware, groups of up to four players compete in escape games based on strong graphical immersion.
Games such as ‘The Prison’ offer a challenging experience, supported by a game-master, players working as a team to find solutions to aid their escape as the story unfolds. They have even creating a holiday themed family friendly puzzle game, called ‘Christmas Story’. The company developing content that can support from two, four and even six player groups.
VR Escape Adventures – a Polish-based content developer has created a platform that for a single fee, the operator can have access under a licensing agreement to the three escape game experiences created by the company, such as ‘Radioactive Escape’ and ‘Wizard’s Chamber’. Another Polish game developer – Truesense, have created a nautically themed title called ‘Pirate Escape Room’. Rather than high-end VR experiences using a PC, this experience is developed for the mobileVR Samsung GearVR headset (powered by a smartphone), offering a cost reduced platform.
One of those companies that has made the successful transition from consumer games to commercial entertainment developer is InnerSpace. The company adding to their roster of puzzle adventure VR games with a new LBE title ‘Corsair’s Curse’ – the two and four player magical adventure set onboard an enchanted galleon in this piratically-themed escape game, with devilish co-op style puzzles to solve, in this hunt for hidden treasure. The game is published through Vertigo Arcade, distributed through their LBVR platform supporting future updates and releases.
Breakscape Games – a VR content creation studio that has developed their game ‘De-Composed’ offering six players the chance to enter a full-on immersive VR escape game. One of the few game experiences that can be played from a seated position, allowing for a compelling and fast paced problem-solving adventure – up to six players traverse the cryptic mansion of a demented composer, hunting clues in the rooms in order to reveal its secrets. The game experience licensed to numerous VR arcades and Escape Room operators under a special leasing package.
One of the few game developers to gross over $3million in sales of a consumer VR title – American-based Schell Games has found success with their award-winning VR escape game ‘I Expect You To Die’. Taking its theme from a secret agent narrative, the player must survive a series of deadly situations, using their skills to save the day. The single player experience was ported towards the needs of VR arcade deployment, made available through many of the key distributor platforms, and has seen a second phase of success, appealing to the out-of-home entertainment audience.
Other consumer VR developed games that have also pivoted to get a second life as suitable titles for VR arcade inclusion, examples include titles like ‘Escape First’ from OnSkull Games – a multiplayer escape game supporting up to six players traversing three separate virtual rooms attempting to complete fiendish puzzles. The company having developed other titles.
‘EscapeVR – Basement’ from Five Mind Creations – the player solving puzzles to escape a mysterious cell and the traps left for them. And ‘The Price of Freedom’ from Construct Studios – set during the Cold War, the game tells an unfolding story for the player pulled into the shadowy world of MK Ultra. Originally available on SteamVR for download by consumer gamers – these titles are also distributed using unique platforms operated by VR arcades.
The VR arcade scene has seen the creation of several platforms towards the distribution of game content to operators, so they have a dedicated, turnkey, distribution outlet; with revenue pricing and updated supply of games and support. With operations such as SpringboardVR, SynthesisVR, Private Label, Monster VR, Mont VR, MK2, CTRL-V and Viveport Arcade (to name a few).
These platforms offer a professional means to distribute VR arcade suitable content, backed up by dedicated support – and are now seeing an increase in interest from operators for more VR escape game style offerings. These individual game studios feeding the hunger for more and more Escape Room narrative, revenue from a percentage of per-play fee proving enticing offering compared to a still undefined consumer release.
The third part of this extensive report on the VR Escape Game business can by viewed by clicking here.
References & Further Reading
- EscapeFront’s VR Directory Listings
- The Out-of-home Immersive Frontier
- Attractions Pro
- The Stinger Report
Kevin Williams – a leading specialist in the digital Out-of-Home entertainment industry, through his consultancy KWP Limited, specializing in interactive entertainment. Coming from a long career in the theme park, amusement and entertainment software industries, being an ex-Walt Disney Imagineer. Well known for his news service, The Stinger Report that has become a-must-read for those working or investing in the international market. Along with this, he is also a prolific writer with regular columns for the main trade publications in this market, along with presenting numerous conference sessions on the sector and its global impact. He is also the co-author of the only book on this aspect of the market, “The Out-of-Home Immersive Entertainment Frontier” – currently working on the next edition, schedule for publication soon. Kevin can be reached at [email protected].