Over the past few years a number of developers have questioned the social applications of virtual reality (VR). Most recently Nintendo’s Shigeru Miyamoto expressed concern about the single-player focused experience, while others have gone as far as to label the technology ‘anti-social’. Nick Lee doesn’t agree with that assessment. In fact, as CEO of Good Game, an upcoming VR-dedicated gaming cafe, he’s looking to actively combat that perception.
VRFocus recently spoke to Lee about his ambitious project, which is currently running a Kickstarter campaign looking to raise $25,000 USD to launch a Boston-based cafe. In the interview below Lee discusses launch plans for the cafe, keeping it relevant as consumer tech becomes a reality, and the hygiene issues of having multiple users strap the same device to their eyes. Should everything go to plan, then you can expect to see Good Game launch in September 2014.
VRFocus: You’ve noted PC cafes in Asia as an influence for this idea. Why do you think it would take off in the US with the inclusion of VR?
Nick Lee: VR tech is still evolving and very expensive, so people will not have it their homes, but still want to experience it. There’s also a big desire among the gaming community to socialize with other gamers in person, which will be a big focus for our store.
VRFocus: Does the concept have much longevity, given most of this technology will become available to consumers in 2015?
Nick Lee: Tech is always evolving and most people can’t afford the latest stuff, so we give them access to use it. Our goal is to have people come for the tech, but stay for the community.
VRFocus: How many Oculus Rift headsets do you plan to make available at first?
Nick Lee: We’ll be using the DK2 Rifts, which won’t be out until August. We plan to start with 20 stations.
VRFocus: Which VR experiences do you think would be ideal for the cafe?
Nick Lee: Gaming will be a big focus, but we will also do a lot with VR research & development. I already have several local tech companies asking if they can rent the store for their research & development. It caught me by surprise as I didn’t expect this at all!
Simulations will also be a big thing once more software is developed. Imagine being on a roller coaster, walking on Mt Everest, or being the pitcher in a world series game. Software developers are behind currently, but when they start creating specifically for VR, we’re going to see some amazing things!
VRFocus: How do you intend to deal with the hygiene issues associated with sharing a head-mounted display (HMD) between many users?
Nick Lee: After someone is finished with their station, our staff will clean up with anti-bacterial wipes on any equipment they used. There is a pre-use and post-use checklist the staff will complete for each station.
VRFocus: The proposed launch isn’t far off of the Kickstarter’s closure, how are you able to start up so quickly? Do you already have the equipment?
Nick Lee: I ordered some equipment already. I researched all the equipment and furniture I will be getting, so once the money arrives, I’ll immediately order everything.
VRFocus: Are there any other VR headsets/peripherals you’d like to include in the cafe?
Nick Lee: MANY! Again, the tech is evolving, so new peripherals will constantly be coming out. Ideally, we will have headsets, gloves, guns/pistols, chest piece and treadmill before new years. A lot of the tech does not even come out until end of this year.
VRFocus: Though it has a while left, the Kickstarter is yet to take off. Do you have plans in event of a failure?
Nick Lee: I’ll apply for a loan at my bank. My credit is decent and I have a lot of savings, so they should approve it. I have friends and family to help some as well.
VRFocus: Do you have plans for expansion?
Nick Lee: Absolutely! This is a volume business, so my immediate plans are getting to 50+ stations asap. If people have to be put on any wait list, it will give a negative impression and experience.
I’ll expand not only in stations, but community events, a full service cafe, tech demo events and more. Another great thing is since it’s a volume business, the more stations we have, the more we can reduce our rates!