01-22-2017 12:36 PM - edited 01-22-2017 12:42 PM
This morning I finally got the chance to visit the newly opened VR cafe located in Easton, Pa at the Palmer Park Mall. Even though I have a Vive, I was interested in seeing how the Cafe operated, what games it offered, and how popular it was. Here is a take and look at the Palmer Park Mall VR Cafe in Easton, PA.
The Palmer Park Mall is a very small mall located on the outskirts of Easton, Pa. The cafe itself has 5 booths with HTC Business Edition headsets hooked up to computers featuring Nvidia GTX1080 graphics cards. They also use over the ear headsets (Monster, I think). Along with the Vives, they offer some classic consoles and have a cafe serving drinks.
As for the experience itself. They currently offer 46 games/experiences for the Vive. These ranged from AAA Serious Sam Vr to Ritchies Plank Experience. The system they use is identical to the home Steam experience except they had the camera feature turned off, no Steam music, and no desktop icon to jump to the desktop. I was expecting a coutdown timer or something like that to tell you when your time expired, but there was nothing like that.
I walked in Sunday around 11:10 am. All booths were in operation except one. The prices are $20 for 30 minutes, or $30 for an hour. I just wanted to see the system, so I only rented it for 30 minutes. As I was filling out the required waiver to play, a family came in to rent and was told it would be 30 mins. So the place is busy.
They walked me to a booth and normally would have gone over the controls, etc (this time does not go against your rental time). But since I have a Vive, it was just putting on the headset and off I was. I was surprised by what games were included and what was not. For me, since I own a Vive, the chance to try out Serious Sam, etc.. was fun.
The booth size itself also was a surprise. I guess I was expecting larger then most people's living room play areas.. but it wasn't. You can see the size in the images below.
Every 5-10 minutes someone would come around and ask me if I was ok. I'll admit, I was a problem player. Having a Vive, wanting to see everything and only having 30 minutes, caused me to jump in and out of games very fast just to see what they were like, etc.. and the hanging on EXITING issue some games have, popped up a few times.
At home I would just reboot the Vive headset. Here, because that option is removed, I just waited a minute or so and someone would come around a reboot the headset for me.
After I was done playing (less then 30 minutes, as I wanted to take some photos too), I got to speak to a worker there (I think he was the manager or owner). He got pretty detailed in why they didn't sell Vive's themselves (HTC wanted them to buy 200 at a time), why the game selection is what it is (The game developer has to be ok with licensing it), and how it is running a VR cafe. I found the discussion a fascinating insight into what it takes to run a VR cafe.
Anyway, the staff was knowledgable and friendly and the place seems well run. I highly recommend it if you want to demo the Vive. I plan to go again in a few months to see if they add more games and a follow up on how busy it is.
On a sidenote: I did mention I was disappointed they did not have even one Oculus Rift as I would have loved to try that out. Since the Rift has no business edition, etc.. they just can't do it at this time I was told. I have yet to try a Rift.
01-22-2017 07:52 PM
Great review. Pity they dont have other headsets to try out.
How are these guys Marketing the place from the Pics it looks a little underwhelming. I would of had pics poster with something eye catching like the Future is here to get people interested.
i guess its Early days.
Did you find any games that you haven't got that you tried then went home to purchase.
Keep us updated on its future
01-22-2017 10:38 PM
They had a great write up in the local paper, but other then that, I haven't seen or heard any adverts at all. From the outside the store pic, you can see that yeah, they have very little to draw you in too except people's curiosity. I think the idea was/is to get the shop up and running, get some word of mouth going and then go big with advertising, etc..
No, I didn't play any games that I then went home to buy, but I had just bought 2 new games this weekend already (VR Monster Awakens and Castle Must Be Mine). But one of the things that really amazed me was that out of the 46 games/experiences they have, how few I had in my library too. I would say over half were new to me. These included Serious Sam, Island 359, Pierhead Arcade, and a few very strange games I never heard of. Overall, it was really cool trying out these games that never had demos and just seeing how other people react to VR.
01-22-2017 11:00 PM
Thanks for the information.
I can understand that the cost of opening one of these places can not be cheap but a little bit of advertising would draw a lot of attention.
What do you think of the two new games you got?
01-27-2017 04:36 PM
@BDS, this is an excellent write-up! Don't think we could have done better if we visited ourselves. I know we have some arcade operators in here who might be very interested in this, especially pricing.
It sounds like the cafe was using Steam's system of pricing, which obviously exists right now. Our Viveport Arcade program, when it's released, should be slightly different (more details to come).
From your photos I can't quite tell where the light houses are situated; were they next to each other on either side of the partitions, or were they in opposite corners? We had some discussion about this with arcade operators and it's interesting to know what people are doing in reality.
01-27-2017 07:57 PM
The lighthouses, if I remember correctly, are in opposite corners. Looking at the photos, the visible wires, etc.. seem to confirm that. I'm going back next weekend, so I will try to get some more photos, details, etc..
As for CASTLE MUST BE MINE, it is an awesome game. It's still early in development, but it is showing some great potential. I liked the tower defense gameplay in VR so much, I then bought Kittypocalypse. I think CASTLE MUST BE MINE is better, because your actions affect gameplay. For example, when and where you move your hero, time throwing of fireballs, etc.. In Kittypocalypse, you just build turrets. So you can easily figure out after a few replays of a level, the build and upgrade order. Still I enjoy it too.
VR MONSTER AWAKENS, sadly hasn't awakened much of my curiosity yet. Looks like it's fun and all, but the 2 games listed above have my attention at the moment. Not going to review it, as it wouldn't be fair.