Redline VR: Be VR Evangelists in your community
January 28, 2021 | 5 min read
Virtual Reality Arcades are primed for success in 2021
VR Arcades around the world have been dealing with ever-changing restrictions for almost a year now but despite the hardships, many locations have been able to keep their doors open and are optimistic about the future.
Prior to restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic, location-based VR saw some of its busiest months ever in January and February of 2020, and operators around the world are determined to get back to stewarding VR to their local communities.
Aaron Sawyer, Owner at Redline VR in Chicago and producer of last year’s mixed reality adventure Altered Festival, has had to make many tough decisions over the last year but has some bold predictions about the future of LBEVR and some insight into how his team has made Redline VR Chicago's number one Virtual Reality Club & Bar.
“Now that the early adopters have made Quest a household name, the rush of the mainstream population will embrace it,” Sawyer said. “LBEVR is going to experience a new wave of customers who are much more accepting of virtual reality as an entertainment option, and will love a place to do it in groups.”
However, as VR becomes more mainstream, locations like Redline VR must be able to provide a truly unique and enjoyable experience for their customers if they hope to survive.
Sawyer said that for newcomers, VR can sometimes come off as “cold” or “techy” so the team at Redline VR has focused on building an excellent culture and environment at his arcade, while also being VR Evangelists in their community.
“When I was first experiencing VR, it was in an extremely warm, personal, human manner over beers,” Sawyer said. “That’s the VR experience I want to present to my guests; a natural, moving, and safe extension of the natural world, surrounded by people they love.”
One thing that’s been said about the VR industry is that it’s too focused on the technology and not enough on the experience.
Sawyer and his team though have taken a different approach and made sure that the experience they provide is the star of the show. “Our bar (yes, we have VR Drink Experiences), is decorated with lots of wood, brick, and plants (which divide the VR stations) rather than monochrome and neon lights.
“Don’t hire tech people, hire personable people who are great communicators and take care of the tech in the background. Our staff are extremely personable and feel like part of your party and more like a tour guide than a fast-food clerk.”
To pair with their team’s customer experience-oriented service, Sawyer said the space itself in which you present VR to your customers is extremely important.
“There are $2 hamburgers and $12 hamburgers and the main difference is the environment in which they are served,” Sawyer said.
“VR is an experience that depends heavily on the comfort level and emotional preparation and mental expectation they receive before going into the headset. You have to literally demonstrate the expectations your guests should be feeling toward VR.”
While RedlineVR does have the advantage of their alcohol sales, Sawyer said his team focuses their efforts during the off-peak times to generate goodwill, not money.
“The general public doesn’t want to play VR on Wednesday at 9:30 at night and you do yourself damage trying to make them,” Sawyer said. “Focus on making the weekends full of enthusiastic customers, and raise your rates as weekend demand dictates… but raise them on all days. You don’t get a discounted steak at a nice restaurant if you go on Tuesday, so don’t make your best customers feel ripped off when they see you’re charging them $20 more on the weekend.”
Along with creating a welcoming environment and strong culture at his location, Sawyer said being active members of the community has been a pillar of his team’s success.
“To connect with the people in the area, we volunteered at any Farmers Market, fundraiser, or community event we could get into and talked with folks and passed out cards,” Sawyer said. “It felt expensive to pay staff by the hour to go out to a gig that paid me nothing, but the money always came back with interest in the form of customers and corporate clients.
“It’s important to be involved in the community that you want to know about and support you. We need to be VR Evangelists, spreading the word by letting people try it in unexpected places. Then, we can invite them into our VR curated homes.”
We thank Aaron Sawyer for sitting down with us to chat more about his location and all the amazing things his team does to create Chicago's #1 Virtual Reality Club & Bar!
Check out their website for more information or, if you're in the Chicago area, to book your sessions at one of the best VR Arcades around!
Marketing & Community Lead | SpringboardVR
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