Business / Tech

Tokyo arcade looks to VR to highlight high-end tech, boost business

by Kazuaki Nagata

Staff Writer

A Tokyo arcade operator unveiled a new virtual reality facility on Wednesday, aiming to showcase high-end virtual reality in a casual setting and boost shrinking industry profits.

VR Park Tokyo, located in the middle of the bustling Shibuya district, will open to the public on Friday. The space is set up on one floor of the four-story arcade run by Adores Inc.

The facility has six virtual reality attractions, including those simulating playing baseball, shooting ghosts, riding on a flying carpet, and walking on a narrow bridge.

“To accelerate the launch of the VR market in Japan, we think it’s important to utilize arcades and amusement parks,” said Eiji Araki, vice president of Gree Inc., a Tokyo-based game company that is partnering with Adores in providing VR games for the facility.

While the year 2016 has been dubbed the dawn of the VR era, people have to buy expensive headsets to experience high-quality VR at home, Araki said. Instead, VR arcades allow a more casual experience at a lower cost.

Seiji Uehara, the president of Adores, said the arcade industry has seen declining sales over the past several years, so the firm is seeking to move beyond the traditional arcade business model. He said the firm hopes that the VR facility business will become a new driving force for growth.

According to the Japan Amusement Machine and Marketing Association, annual sales at arcades were about ¥700 billion in fiscal 2006, but fell to ¥420 billion in fiscal 2014 due to the proliferation of smartphone games and more diverse options for leisure time.

The VR Park Tokyo will charge ¥3,300 for 70 minutes, or ¥2,900 per person when there are two or more people in a group.