When it comes to stopping the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) events around the world are taking the precautionary approach of cancelling, such as the Games Developers Conference (GDC) and the Facebook Developers Conference (F8). As time goes on location-based entertainment (LBE) venues specialising in virtual reality (VR) are likely to face a similar decision to close, demonstrated in the fact that BANDAI NAMCO Amusement in Japan has temporarily suspended its facilities.
Outside of China, Japan has been one of the worst-hit with 287 reported cases. With that in mind BANDAI NAMCO Amusement said in a press release: “Based on the government’s basic policy on countermeasures against infection of new coronavirus infectious disease (COVID-19) in Japan, we have decided to temporarily suspend the amusement facilities we operate in Japan on the following schedule.”
The closures are due to last just under two weeks, affecting both VR and several over amusement sites:
- VR ZONE Portal – From Wednesday, 4th March to Sunday, 15th March.
- MAZARIA – 29th February until Sunday, 15th March.
- VR ZONE OSAKA – 29th February until Sunday, 15th March.
The company also notes that: “there may be a sudden change in business hours and temporary closure after the business resumption date.”
There hasn’t been an update at the moment from BANDAI NAMCO Amusement Europe regarding its facilities which include VR ZONE Portal London and VR ZONE Portal Westminster, both of which have the latest Mario Kart Arcade GP VR experience.
Due to the interactivity associated with VR, wearing a headset then using either peripherals or motion controllers, this may cause customers to avoid the technology for fear of transmission. Well managed venues should have anti-bacterial/alcohol wipes on hand for basic hygiene reasons anyway, helping negate these worries in the first place.
COVID-19 has affected the VR industry in other ways, notably when it comes to hardware production. Companies like Facebook and Valve have said it’ll affect production and shipping. VR fans have been keen to get their hands on Valve Index ahead of the Half-Life: Alyx launch later this month. VRFocus will continue to monitor the situation and keep you updated.