Starbreeze Studios, the developer behind The Darkness and Syndicate, has revealed plans to establish a virtual reality arcade, with the development name for the project being "StarCade." The developer laid out the reasoning behind the initiative yesterday during its presentation at the VRLA Winter Expo and later sent out a press release containing the key points from the presentation:

“We continue to iterate the fact that VR really needs to be experienced in person to fully be able to appreciate the phenomenon, and why not have your first experience in a real premium setting in our StarVR headset? We’ve managed to secure a prime location where people are welcome to step into our StarCade and enjoy our OVERKILL’s The Walking Dead VR experience.” said Starbreeze CTO Emmanuel Marquez. He continued, “We’re developing our own StarCade catalogue of experiences, but we’re open to any content. We will invite developers to join us and give them the opportunity to put their content in our StarCade. We as an industry continuously need to educate ourselves to make VR truly successful, and this is just the first step in our planning to do so.”

StarCade is set to premiere somewhere in Los Angeles in "spring/summer 2016" though an exact location has not been specified. According to Starbreeze, information on how developers interested in participating in StarCade will be available at a later date, as well as the location and exact dates of the premiere.

We had a chance to test out an earlier version of The Walking Dead VR Experience at E3 last year and came away with mostly positive impressions.


Our Take
Starbreeze's initiative sounds promising but there are a lot of uncertainties here that are tied to the StarCade's eventual success or failure. So far Starbreeze has only announced one title for the arcade (though it's likely that John Wick VR game will be there too), The Walking Dead VR Experience being developed by Overkill, itself a subsidiary of Starbreeze. Will other developers be willing to participate with games that are capable of not only drawing an audience but also maintaining them and selling them on the idea of VR?  How is this StarCade going to be monetized, if at all? I absolutely agree that VR needs to be experienced in person for someone to fully appreciate the capabilities of the technology, but is housing that solution within the body of an institution that's been financially languishing for years the answer?

Perhaps embracing the food-and-games model of Dave and Busters and GameWorks would be a viable way for StarCade to make a profit, if  that's even the goal of this particular operation. Virtual reality arcades could also prove to be a testing ground for VR peripherals that consumers feel are too pricey to take a risk on. At this point though there isn't really enough information about this arcade to make an educated guess at how it will turn out. Still, it'll be interesting to see how the initiative pans out in 2016 and how other developers get involved. As skeptical as I am, I can't deny that the idea of a functional and viable virtual reality arcade is pretty cool.