LBVR Content & Competition
Immersive Tech was building a successful escape room company. They created an innovative installation inside of a shipping container that was getting ready for a world tour when the global pandemic hit. Seemingly overnight, Immersive Tech’s business model no longer worked. Thinking quickly, they pivoted to virtual reality to guide them through the pandemic and beyond.
Adrian Duke, COO of Immersive Tech talked about what virtual reality would look like for them. Adrian explained, “We were looking at it from what can we create that gives us a product for family entertainment centers or anyone operating a business.” Immersive Tech wanted to create something that made location entertainment centers (LEC) money but also would draw customers back. Duke and the team looked at the competition. Duke said they decided, “if we’re going to build this and create one little game, it didn’t seem feasible for someone to buy a whole container, install it, put it in with one game.”
“We wanted to create an entire narrative that would allow us to create multiple experiences and other content types for interesting dynamics for players to explore and experience,” said Duke. He described the Star Wars universe as inspiration. The multiple universes and non-linear storylines would give Immersive Tech flexibility in developing their universe. He explained, “Instead of a passive experience like watching a movie, we wanted people to experience it on their own and continue that journey and narrative through other missions.”
When it comes to replicating what Immersive Tech has done, Adrian Duke isn’t worried. “I hope more people enter this space because it’s a powerful storytelling medium and we want to encourage other people to build on our platform.” Someone may have a unique idea for VR but the reality is it has to work for the operator on the ground. Immersive Tech has a history of deploying activations in family entertainment centers (FEC) and event spaces, where people have short attention spans and don’t come for a specific activation. “Drawing on those two pieces, we feel we have a really good grounding in how to make this work for operators,” said Duke.
The addition of VR and the opportunities it provides are amazing and enjoyable from the design standpoint. Duke explained, “ultimately, where we live is in tactile experiences.” With UNCONTAINED, Immersive Tech’s newest VR product, the universe is built upon tactile interaction. That means everything people see comes from an action they made inside the container.
UNCONTAINED is anything but an on-rails experience, where no matter what the user does the outcome is pre-determined. UNCONTAINED isn’t afraid to let players fail the mission. From their escape room experience, “that’s something we do very differently,” said Duke. “Everything that you do has a reaction whether it’s a positive one or a negative one. And ultimately we let players be in control of the entire journey.”
Immersive Tech’s unique and diverse team and skillset set them apart from other virtual reality attractions. Their unique skill set lends itself perfectly to their methodology and technology. Immersive Tech’s design motto is that everything they create needs to be an experience someone could not get at home. “If we’re creating something, we want to make sure this was worth it to make you get off your couch and come,” said Duke.
The interactive and physical features of UNCONTAINED make it something even the most well-outfitted VR gamer couldn’t reproduce at home. And for the non-VR gamer, the experience will be amazing. Immersive Tech thought about their customer, location entertainment centers, and FECs’ customers (those coming to the LBVR shipping container) to make the attraction worth it for everyone. “Ultimately, it’s a Disney-level experience we’re aiming for on an arcade-level budget,” said Duke.
Immersive Tech and location-based VR attractions aren’t the only industry facing the tug of war between at-home entertainment and out-of-the-house attractions. Movie theaters are battling movie streaming services. However, Immersive Tech is optimistic about people coming back out. “What’s made us successful is our ability to design games for groups,” said Duke. In other attractions that are on-rails, or one person becomes the lead, others in the group may feel like a witness, they didn’t really participate.
“All of our designs require teamwork. They force interactions, whether they become contentious or positive is up to them.” Whether teams positively encourage each other or tell their teammates to hurry up is up to the players. “Those are scenarios we force players into because it ultimately creates a more memorable experience, a shared experience and they’re so much more powerful than something you do on your own,” said Duke.
Whether watching someone in VR or being the person in VR is an isolating experience. It puts people in a self-conscious mindset because they’re not sure if their friends are watching them. Immersive Tech’s shared VR experience is very unique at this point in time because everyone is involved in the hyper-immersive experience together.
Virtual reality may have been an unexpected pivot for Immersive Tech. Their focused team and experience in design and storytelling quickly proved to be an asset for incorporating virtual reality inside the shipping containers, leading to the realization that content would be the driving force behind their experience—and that they’re more than up for the challenge.