Retailtainment VR has emerged as a high stakes ‘holy grail’ for entertainment content creators, and the winner remains to be named.
The drive toward a physical presence in the retail space has been seen from several “retailtainment” projects — such as pop-up attractions in high-foot-traffic locations.
This is best illustrated by the Netflix “Army of the Dead: Viva Vengeance” VR attraction that toured several Westfield mall locations internationally. But having a retail space to promote and sell immersive tech has been a difficult balancing act.
Most recently, Meta threw its hat into the ring, launching its first Meta store in Burlingame, California, promoting its online portal device, AR glasses and VR headsets on shelves, along with an LED screen VR demonstration area.
The company claims its first Meta store will be used to experiment and learn for the rollout of future iterations.
This marks the most recent attempt at a retail presence by Oculus/Meta — since the ill-conceived “Oculus Rift Demo Stations” at Best Buy in 2016, which was forced to close due to slow performance. Or the short-lived Oculus Rift-S demonstration stations at Microsoft stores.
The parade continues
Meta will be joining the illustrious line of other consumer VR manufacturers who installed VR demo areas in their stores, such as Google and Microsoft — only to shutter.
It seems the current Meta management has failed to learn from its predecessors — or working with location based entertainment, the one industry that is public facing with VR hardware — and it is just too hard a pill to swallow.
At the same time, other hard lessons were being learned, as inside sources suggested a significant slowing in sales, even returns, of its Quest2 VR platform.
Meta’s Reality Labs lost $2.96 billion on $695 million in revenues during the first quarter of 2022. The pressure is being ramped up on the embattled founder, as he gambles all on his dream of a walled garden surrounding the metaverse.
Meta calls for time
Meanwhile, Meta warned investors in a statement that they now feel it will not “flourish” until 2030, when they see real growth in their plans — the date changed from previous 2024 speculation. The question now will be if investors will allow them to continue spending big on this dream as the promises continue to slip.
The company also recently announced plans to partner with ILMxLAB to present the “Star Wars: Tales from the Galaxy’s Edge” experience at Disney Springs Resort. This will include a demonstration enclosure with Meta Quest 2 headsets available for guests to reserve to try their Jedi skills in the virtual game experience.
ILMxLAB, a subsidiary of LucasFilms, a VR game experience developer, was involved previously with Oculus (rebranded Meta) with “Lightsaber Dojo” — a similar pop-up VR arena, developed in partnership with Nomadic VR during 2019. Six arenas were deployed for a short time in Cinemark Theaters and Simon Centers in the US and Canada.
So the parade continues
Meta is not alone in pursuing the VRspace. The VR platform, Pico, is also doubling down.
Owned by ByteDance, which also owns social media platform TikTok, Pico plans to launch its Pico Neo 3 Link in the West with a European Union rollout of a limited number of units to test the waters before launching its next-generation VR standalone headset later in the year.
Pico is in a position to sell into Europe, while other corporations have found it difficult. This move is still only an attempted development towards a full market launch.
Chinese VR headset developer DPVR, previously known as Deepoon, recently revealed plans to launch its “DPVR E4 Pegasus” standalone VR headset in direct competition with the Quest 2.
Around the same time, the first images of the Apple entry into the VR/MR scene, with its “Apple View” headgear, was leaked to the media.
Global politics are also impacting VR content creation.
Several Russian developers of LBE VR hardware have been silenced due to the ongoing conflict and subsequent international sanctions.
Arcadia-VR, a development house of VR games for both LBE and consumer platforms, announced on social media it will shutter its Moscow locations due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Retailtainment VR has emerged as a high stakes “holy grail” of sorts for entertainment content creators, and the winner remains to be named.
(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.)