VR Esports Games: Competitive Recipe for Growth

Could competitive VR esports games be part of the future FEC arcade landscape? Esports is wildly popular. Video games like League of Legends and Fortnite pay out millions in prizes. They are watched by hundreds of millions of fans, both in stadiums and on Twitch. Billions are being invested in esports. Major league sports teams are buying esport teams and building esport arenas. But similar to the early days of virtual reality, the business models don’t quite work.

Bringing esports to FECs requires a different approach. Some companies are selling PC gaming consoles as esports solutions. Renting out computer equipment for games people already play at home is not a recipe for profit. It’s a race to zero. That’s where VR comes in.

Less than 10% of people in America own a VR headset. Yet 90% of those who have tried VR said they want to do it again. This is a blue-ocean market opportunity for our industry. We just need some great games and a new operating model.

While The VR Collective was developing its business model, I was approached by Ben Lee from Hong Kong-based VAR Live. Ben told me about a VR esports platform they’d developed. It was running in 8 countries in Asia, which is the birthplace of esports, and had amassed 2 million plays and 100K registered players.  

VAR Box Taiwan VR Esport Game Tournament with Huge Crown
The VAR Box Taiwan Tournament with a huge crowd.

The promise of creating a new location-based entertainment esport was exciting. Delivered on an unattended virtual reality platform made it the perfect launch product for The VR Collective.

The VAR Box is an unattended VR arcade cabinet with a 42” LCD screen, so spectators can see the action. It has a realistic gun peripheral modeled after a Glock handgun. It’s extremely accurate and has a great haptic kick to it when you pull the trigger.

Bob Cooney gets into a PVP Overkill match on VARBox
Bob getting into a PVP game of Overkill at Amusement Expo

It currently has three different VR esports games, with a total of 9 modes.

  • Blockade: up to 4 players join forces as waves of zombies attack from all directions. It’s super intense and often has players screaming.  
  • Double Tap: a single or two-player competitive speed shooting game. It has 6 different game modes, including head-to-head competition for tournament play.
  • Overkill: a 4 vs. 4 squad-based, classic Esports first-person shooter. Players can play by themselves with bots or with up to 3 other players around the world using the global matchmaking system.
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The First Esport Mobile App for Arcade Gamers

There is also a mobile app for players. The app has daily missions and challenges, with rewards like free games and limited-edition skins. If you know anything about online gaming, you know skins are a big deal and a prerequisite to an esports game.

VR Esport Game Mobile App from VAR Box and the VR Collective
VAR Box Mobile App Leaderboard. I’ve got some work to do!

The app lets players track their performance, scores, and leaderboards. After every game, players gather around to see how they performed versus their friends. It reminds me of scorecards at Laser Storm. Players would grab their scorecards and spend almost as long comparing stats as they did playing the game. It’s part of what made laser tag a great social experience.

Last year I flew four test units to America. I am dubious about VR products coming from China. They tend to use inferior components, are unreliable, with poor support and software. But the VAR Box uses the Pico Neo 3, one of the best headsets in the world. Var Live lists Intel, Lenovo, Digital Domain, and other first-tier tech companies as partners.

Location Tests Always Tell the Truth

Alex Teran is the co-founder and operating partner of the Riverside Game Lab in downtown Riverside, California. Riverside Game Lab is a mashup of a bar, classic arcade, and VR center. Alex has nurtured a thriving esports community of fighting game players. He runs up to 5 fighting game tournaments a week on games like Smash Bros, Marvel v Capcom, and Street Fighter.

Alex Teran is adding VAR Box to his already popular esports at Riverside Game Lab
Smash Bros Tournament at Riverside Game Labs

“If I hadn’t seen firsthand the VAR Box perform, I wouldn’t have believed it. Imagine VR esports games that have:

  • The repeat plays of Skee-Ball
  • The feel and reliability of Time Crisis or Jurassic Park
  • Double the throughput of Star Wars Lightsaber Dojo
  • The polished VR feel of Pistol Whip or Arizona Sunshine
  • A partner app with a fully supported esports ecosystem
  • A little bit of magic, spice, and everything nice”
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“I’ve been floored by the success of VAR Box. We’ve had two units on the floor since December 30th, 2021. Every week it’s made up to 2X the revenue of my other VR games. And that’s with no promotion.”

“The VAR Box VR esports games fit naturally into our 4-5 esports tournaments a week at Riverside Game Lab. It’s a natural evolution of our esports tournaments expanding into the VR world. And I love how they do the prize distribution, so I don’t have to track down players.”

“This machine has something to cover every aspect of the esports model for shooting games. I literally cannot wait to get more units into the building.”

Alex Teran – Co-founder and owner of Riverside Game Lab

An Award-Winning Opportunity for Early Adopters and Innovators

The VAR Box was finally unveiled at the Amusement Expo International show in Las Vegas in March 2022. The industry experts took notice. It won the first AMOA Innovator Award ever given to an esports product. And it’s only the second VR product to win. The first was VR Rabbids from LAI, which went on to become the biggest selling VR game to date.

Ben Lee from VAR Box proudly displays the AMOA Innovator Award from Amusement Expo 2022
Ben Lee from VAR Live with the AMOA Innovator Award

The VR Collective is looking for early adopters and innovative operators willing to help us co-create the future. Esports can become a pillar of the FEC and arcade business. Will you join us?

Just reply to this email if you want to know more. Early inventory is extremely limited. The VR Collective is building a waiting list. Contact Shaffer Distributing, AVS, or reach out to me if you have questions.