Synthesis VR Brings Free Roam VR To Forefront

According to the most recent surveys, 50% of Americans think VR makes video games a better experience. Which might explain why VR arcades survived the pandemic and continue to draw interest and investment in 2024.

VR arcades started with players each in their own booth. It was a bit isolating, but for most it was the only way to experience virtual reality. Players coughed up as much as $30 for each half-hour of play time. Every city, large and small, had at least one VR arcade.

However, as the novelty of VR has worn off, and people seek social experiences after the pandemic lockdown, stepping into a single VR booth is becoming less appealing. The technology and tools have also evolved, with developments like WIFI 6e and inside-out tracking.  Trends the technology conspire, and the VR market is shifting rapidly towards free roam experiences.

Free roam VR puts players shoulder to shoulder in the same space, playing as a group. It’s fun, social, and blows people’s minds. Free roam is something people will never be able to replicate at home. It’s a defensible attraction for almost any amusement business, especially with the growing catalog of games from developers big and small.

In The Beginning…

Free roam has been around since 2016, when Zero Latency launched out of Melbourne, Australia. It was a premium attraction at a premium price. Being a pioneer comes with a price. They had to invent much of the technology that’s available off the shelf today. They created special backpacks containing powerful gaming computers, custom made guns, and a specialized tracking system.

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Since Zero Latency demonstrated to the world (myself included) what was possible, other companies have filled in the technological gaps. Qualcomm, Valve, HTC, and other large enterprises built the technology infrastructure to deliver free roam VR with off the shelf components.

Smaller startups like Striker VR and bHaptics created peripherals with haptics to make the experiences more immersive. And developers started creating games. Lots of games.

Above: An original Zero Latency free-roam system. The technology has come a long way since 2016.

Democratizing Free Roam

Synthesis VR established one of the nation’s first VR arcades in 2016. They built their own software management system and tested in authentic conditions with real customers. From those humble beginnings, they’ve gone on to significantly influence the VR arcade industry. The company’s platform plays an essential role for over 500 locations using the Synthesis VR platform to run their VR arcade businesses.

Having such a competent and engaged customer base, they saw the opportunity to support free roam early. Synthesis VR now offers a library of dozens of free roam games from developers large and small. The games range from shooters to escape rooms to kid’s games.

Above: Synthesis VR has an extension Free-Roam library of games for LBVR.

Synthesis VR could be mistakenly categorized as a “launcher.”  It’s the software that players and operators use to “launch” a new experience.  But it’s so much more than that.  It’s a venue management solution for scheduling, accounting, analytics, waivers, and more.

Freedom of Choice

But as they say, content is king, and Synthesis VR has built the largest free roam game library on the planet. And it’s an open system. They are constantly increasing their library with third-party titles. As an open distribution platform that brings a broad library of free roam games from all over the world, operators now have freedom of choice to add various types of content.

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Up until now, operators had to pick a VR solution provider and were locked into that content library, hoping the company would live up to its promises of new content. Synthesis VR offers a new paradigm. Pick your hardware and peripherals, build your arena, and then choose the content that works for you and your business. 

PCVR vs All In One

There are two types of free roam systems: PCVR, and All In One. It’s a critical distinction.

PCVR means each headset gets its video feed from a high-end gaming computer.  A few years ago, players wore backpacks with PCs built in. They were heavy, hot, and unreliable. Now with the magic of WIFI 6e, that video is streamed to headsets wirelessly. The graphics on PCVR systems are significantly better than the All In One headsets. For some people, it makes a difference, especially if you’re concerned with competing against consumer VR games at home.

All In One means the game runs on the computer chip built into the headset. All modern headsets such as Quest 2/3, PICO, and HTC VIVE Focus 3 run a version of the Qualcomm Snapdragon XR2 system on chip. It’s a very high-powered version of the chip that runs many Android phones. Since it’s built on a mobile phone architecture, and headsets can’t handle the heat generated by high-end graphics cards, the visuals are not a rich and detailed.

Synthesis VR is the only system that offers both options. They are building a library of all-in-one games for locations that want to keep it simple and more affordable. And they have a huge library of PCVR games from locations that want to offer the best VR available anywhere.

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If operators want to start simply with an All-In-One system, they can then graduate to a PCVR system without throwing anything away and starting over. It’s the ultimate flexibility and freedom that operators have been looking for.

Synthesis VR also offers the flexibility and freedom of combining free roam and room-scale experiences in the same space, a way to utilize the space in the most optimum manner while increasing the return of investment.

See It All At Amusement Expo

At Amusement Expo, Synthesis VR will be showcasing its PCVR system in a new turnkey arena. Depending on your configuration, you could get an 8-player high-end turnkey VR system for under $100k, which would have cost more than half a million dollars just 6 years ago.

Above: The new ARENA by Synthesis VR makes Free-Roam VR more affordable.

Synthesis VR will also be showing their All In One software in a new compact arena that starts under $20K. No matter your budget, there’s now a free roam solution for you. The ROI on these systems is crazy fast too. You should get your money back in weeks if done right.

If you’ve ever been interested in free roam VR, now is the time. Come to the VR Arcade Summit and Amusement Expo, March 18-22 in Las Vegas.