The other day I went down to the mall and happened to arrive during a shift change at the customer service desk. I wandered over to a row of couches and sat down to watch a Microsoft Store employee playing a game using the store’s virtual reality set-up. Seeing as I had 15 minutes to kill, I asked him if I could try it out.
I believe the system they had set up was this HTC VIVE Pro Virtual Reality System, which involves two ceiling-mounted sensors, two wireless handsets, and a tethered headset (although it seems a version without the headset cable may be launching later this month).
If, like me, you haven’t used a virtual reality system since the Virtual Boy, it’s difficult to convey just how incredible the technology has become. Immersive virtual reality like you see in “Ready Player One” is not science fiction, and it’s not 5 or 10 years away — it’s here right now.
While the technology is ready, the people aren’t, for two main reasons: it’s too expensive, and it requires too much space. The answer is today’s free business idea: virtual reality saloons.
What is a virtual reality saloon?
A virtual reality saloon is a karaoke bar for virtual reality gaming.
A fully functional virtual reality gaming setup requires a fair amount of sophistication. The two ceiling-mounted sensors I mentioned have to be mounted on a ceiling, and oriented properly. The gaming area itself has to be free of obstructions. And you also need to pay for the equipment and the games themselves.
For those reasons, I don’t think home-based virtual reality systems have much of a future for the next 5-10 years. But the technology is already there, which means the obvious solution is for a business to undertake the upfront equipment cost, setup, and maintenance, and then rent the equipment out on an hourly or daily basis to individuals and groups.
Nuts and bolts
While the upfront equipment costs are quite high for an individual, they’re quite modest for a business, at perhaps $4,000-5,000 per rig, including all the virtual reality equipment, a top-of-the-line gaming computer, and every currently-available virtual reality game. A virtual reality saloon could start at as little as one room customers could reserve for wedding parties, corporate events, etc, much like “escape rooms” do already.
Since only one or two people can play the actual games at a time, the profit center would naturally be the bar. The model works better the more gaming saloons you can put under one roof, in order to keep the bar as busy as possible.
Commercial real estate, liability insurance, and alcohol licensing are complex issues you’ll want to consult with local specialists about. But if you want to own and operate your own business but don’t have any business ideas, feel free to use one of mine. After all, they’re free!