Viveland, HTC's VR arcade, opened in Taipei eight months ago, with the Taiwanese company calling it the "world's first premium VR arcade." It has three jobs: make money, sell people on VR and serve as a testbed for future arcades that HTC plans to build around the globe. Since Engadget was in Taipei for Computex, it made sense to take the short cab ride across town to sample its charms. Now that I've seen Viveland and experienced what it has to offer, it's clear what these facilities need in order to succeed. High-end PCs and VR headsets are important, sure, but it's the social experience that will determine Viveland's success.
VR arcades aren't new; there are thousands in Asia and a small but growing number in the United States and Canada. The most famous of those is probably The Void, which has a huge location in Utah and is also behind the Ghostbusters: Dimension exhibit in New York. A few smaller businesses have also opened up on their own, but we're not -- yet -- at the point where everyone has access to one.
Viveland itself occupies roughly a third of a floor inside Taipei's Syntrend, a shopping-mall paradise for technology enthusiasts. It features a number of VR stations across its front, showcasing games from Front Defense andThe Walk through to Project Cars. Around the back, a number of closed booths offer other games, including team shooters Dinosaur Commandoand HordeZ. Booths can also be rented for blocks of 30 minutes at a time for NT$400 ($13), while an individual session costs around NT$200 ($7).
It's fair to say that launching a one-of-a-kind VR arcade wouldn't have been cheap, but very little of that cash is visible. Viveland's an experiment that's been open for less than a year, yet it already has the well-worn shabbiness of a laser-tag arena. In fact, there are more than a few similarities between a VR arcade and that mainstay of '90s shopping malls. But perhaps that's part of the charm; a duller real world will help make the virtual experiences just a bit more vivid.