VR Arcade Tips with Charlie Fink [Webinar]


July 3, 2018 | 5 min read

VR Arcade Informational Webinar

We’re so excited to sit down with Charlie Fink and learn from a VR Arcade legend! Join us Thursday, July 12th at 11:00am CDT, and hear Charlie dive into multiple topics that will enable VR Arcades become more profitable. He will also tell his story of opening Virtual World - the world’s first VR Arcade. The lecture will be followed by a live Q&A with all participants.

Have a Question for Charlie?

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About Charlie Fink

Covering VR and AR for Forbes has allowed Fink to rediscover his enthusiasm for LBVR, and he writes extensively about it. He is widely considered one of the world’s leading experts in the space, having met everyone and tried almost everything.

Forbes Columnist and Author of Metaverse: An AR Enabled Guide to AR & VR, Charlie Fink has enjoyed a storied career in tech (VR, online services, and social media) and entertainment. His storied career began over thirty years ago as a junior executive at Disney, where in 1987 when he came up with the idea for the “Lion King”. Fink subsequently rose to the position of VP of story development, and was responsible for the development of “Beauty and the Beast,” “Aladdin,” and the live-action Disney movie, “Homeward Bound”. In 1992, Tim Disney asked him to help with the acquisition and management of Virtual World Entertainment, the progenitor of the Battletech Center on Chicago’s North Pier, which featured a low-cost cab-based simulation system. Fink became its Chief Operating Officer, a position he held for four years before leaving to join America Online in January 1996.

Jordan Weisman and Ross Babcock created the hit role-playing game, Battletech, in 1984. The RPG had assembled a huge following, and the Battletech Center was its temple. Rather than flying a yet, players steer giant Battlemechs, or Mechs, wacking one another in service of futuristic feudal lords. Players have unlimited freedom and agency without a head mounted display.

Virtual World set out to create a “theme park in a box”, which would feature several vehicle-based VR experiences in other worlds. Disney hoped to broaden the appeal beyond adolescent males and gamers and attract more women, couples and families. For this reason, Battletech was soon joined by “Red Planet”, a simulation of hovercraft racing on Mars. Under Disney’s leadership, there were major technology upgrades to both hardware and software as Virtual World opened more than 25 locations on four continents in less than four years. Three International Virtual World Cups were broadcast for the Sci-Fi Channel. A “Battletech” animated tv series, toy line and comic book came out in 1995.

At first, the new Virtual World locations outperformed the original Chicago North Pier location but after a year or two almost all of them faltered. As the internet exploded in popularity, interest in Virtual World and VR, in general, faded. VWE’s only competitor, Virtuality, went out of business. Fink left to join AOL as SVP and Chief Creative Officer, while VWE spun off its software group, and promptly sold it to Microsoft. Soon thereafter, Weisman became Xbox’s first creative director.

The Virtual World retail business went through several legal maneuvers to shed the leases and dispose of the failing locations. All this time, the Battletech Center in Chicago never faltered in its sales, while newer Virtual World centers in places like Costa Mesa, CA, and Dallas, TX, were shuttered. Dave & Buster’s, which had a successful pilot with an 8 pod Battletech Outpost, opened dozens of new Outposts around the country with pods freed from the closing locations. The last Outpost was retired in 2005. The pods are now in private hands and show up at role-playing game conventions, where they can generate as much as $10,000 in a weekend.

Today’s VR technology is better, cheaper and easier to operate. There is a massive ecosystem of hardware and software to support Location Based VR, in its many flavors. Operators can use social media to power local marketing efforts. However, the cruel gravity of retail is still in full force. The laws of throughput are inflexible. No one has ever solved the utilization problem, which means too few seats Saturday night, too many seats the rest of the time. A 300 seat movie theater can erase a bad week with a few sold out shows on the weekend. VR doesn’t have the inventory to do that.

Some of Charlie’s recent articles on the LBVRE space:

Learn more about Virtual World, the world’s first VR Arcade:

We hope you can join us!

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