Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Could This Invention Bring Back the Video Arcade?

Photo Credit: Arcade Bros.
As kids we probably all dreamed of some sort of fully-immersive video game technology where players could interact with a virtual world using their bodies instead of just pressing buttons. I for one envisioned gamers encased in giant spherical TV screens à la hamster balls. Nintendo's Wii, Microsoft's Kinect, and author Neal Stephenson's somewhat loopy sword-fighting initiative are all baby-steps in this direction, but a new company called Virtuix appears to be closing in on the ultimate goal. Their product, called Omni, is essentially a treadmill that allows the player to control in-game movement by simply walking. Combined with the Oculus Rift head-mounted display (made by another company), players will be able to experience video games in a totally new way.

Gamers have consistently demanded better and better graphics and game experiences on their home consoles and computers. As these old media formats approach hard limits to their immersive capability, I fully expect demand to look elsewhere rather than accept stagnation. If Omni proves to be totally awesome and fun, the bigger video game companies might jump on board and start investing in similar technologies and formats. While Omni is marketed for use in the home, I see advances along this path pretty clearly leading to bigger and better--and thus more expensive--virtual reality video games.

The simplest way to support a video game market based around expensive virtual reality systems is through scale. While it may not make sense for a single kid to purchase the Omni or its equivalent, some enterprising business owner could purchase a few and then rent out their use to paying customers. This could quickly lead to a resurgence in the video arcade business model.

1 comment:

  1. A resurgence of the arcade? That would be awesome. We need some barcades here in Milwaukee.