Starting a Virtual Reality Arcade business at the start of 2020 (shakes magic 8 ball)

How we turned a neglected flooded warehouse into an arcade just before the pandemic hit.

It all started in January 2020, shortly after Christmas after many should we/shouldn’t we conversations of buying a VR headset for our Family (me, the mrs and 4 kids). Would it be any good? They are so expensive (at least they were at the time, its a little more accessible now thanks to the quest 2) in January 2020 the Oculus Rift S was a £400 VR Headset which on its own did nothing, to get it to work we would also need a gaming PC which would cost around £1200 for a good entry level VR gaming PC, luckily I have been a “PC Gamer” since I was old enough to work and buy my first computer, so we already had a gaming PC so we just needed the headset. After lots of research, we decided to give it a try and ordered the headset.

First impressions with the VR headset were unbelievable, it loads up after some simple instructions to a world like never before, the game is all around you, above you, and below you. You are in the game! As a family, we tried lots of different experiences it was an absolute blast and we had family and friends around to try it to show them how unbelievable it was. I really enjoyed watching them try it for the first time and being amazed just like I was, and this got me thinking… everyone needs to experience VR, just everyone, they need to see how good it is, but it’s so expensive, why would they risk spending all that money, everyone was going to miss out!? So I searched around and sure enough, there were some VR Arcades around the country in some of the major cities in the UK where you good go and experience VR, but nothing where we lived in the little town of Runcorn.

I explained the idea to the Mrs, we both worked full time so this would just have to be a part time endeavor, evenings and weekends. We researched how it all worked in terms of software, special arcade licences you need to charge people to play games and lots of other stuff. We found a location and set a modest goal of being able to just try and hit our running costs for the business, we were in a catch 22 scenario, to make money from an arcade you needed to have around 6-8 headsets and fill the place say each weekend but we were on a tight budget so had to set our sights a bit lower, start small and just hope to cover our costs while introducing people to VR.

So fast forward to around the end of March and we were ready to open, but we all know what happened next! A word we can’t wait to see the back of, Lockdown. We now had lots of expenses and no customers and we’d missed the criteria for the government loan schemes for help by just a few days from when we formed our company! So, we put money into the business account to cover our costs until we could finally open. It actually started off really well with 3 or 4 customers on the first day, and they loved it, and more and more were interested to see what VR was all about and everyone loved it. But then, more lockdowns, open/close/open/close etc, luckily we did get some help with one of the government schemes in the last lockdowns which has helped keep our doors open, and now we are just doing our best to try and keep it ticking over, after each lockdown it has got quieter and quieter but we are hopeful that soon this will all be behind us and we can open fully and unrestricted and people will feel ready to get out and try VR!

Check out some photos from our journey, looking back it’s actually amazing to see what we have managed to achieve, I am proud of my family for working hard and making this a reality, so everyone can experience Virtual Reality!

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