Insights EDU

Immersive Experiences and the Future of Location-Based Entertainment

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Aleko Lilly | Head of Business Development | Somniacs

08 Oct 2021 | 3 min read

It is probably fair to say that given the events of the last eighteen months, the world is changing at a faster pace than ever before. After a period of isolation, followed by multiple ongoing periods of uncertainty, the folks who are able to get back to whatever it is we call a normal life again are more excited, willing, and adventurous than ever before. And, while we may see long-term changes born from our experience that have a detrimental effect on our collective interest in travelling, spending time in groups, or doing things that involve risk – these effects haven’t necessarily materialized yet. Instead, we’re seeing an increase in desire to be there, to have an experience, and truly immerse ourselves in life again.

At SOMNIACS, it is this immersion that has always been our focus. From the beginning, when our virtual reality simulator Birdly was first conceived as an art project, the goal was to study immersion. Our founder, Max Rheiner, set out with the goal to understand how to become truly immersed in VR, to be able to release yourself from the trappings of the real world and gain experience from a completely different perspective. That’s why he chose flight. 

Birdly®

The goal was to provide users with a chance to do something in VR where they were not distracted by previous knowledge, not thinking about what didn’t exactly work or match up to their known feelings and expectations. When experiencing flight on the wings of a bird, you are doing something so new, so foreign to your experience, that you are finally able to completely let go of reality. At SOMNIACS we believe increasing the moments of full immersion can be beneficial in bringing people into the present, maximizing their enjoyment, and creating an emotional response. 

But how are these feelings related to location-based entertainment (LBE)? And why do they represent a shift in the future of LBE?

It’s our belief, that the days of LBE being defined by simple gaming arcades and VR centres are numbered. It’s no longer enough to have the most shooter games, the biggest arcade of options, or the largest free-roam VR available. Success in the LBE world of today requires thoughtful programming with unique ideas and experiences that tie in deeply to an overall story and tell a new one each time your guests arrive. People are looking for new experiences that capture their imaginations and tug at their emotions. We believe that one of our partners, Area15 in Las Vegas, embodies this spirit and provides a blueprint for a new form of LBE venue.

Area15 have taken the traditional shopping mall shell and reinvented it as a complete experience within itself. They have then combined this shell – the venue itself – with myriad immersive experiences within the venue including Birdly simulators, art installations, experiential shopping and much more. In our conversations with the operators of Area15, we’ve found that the transition from a developer of what is essentially a mall-like property, to the operator of many of the most successful attractions came more from necessity than desire. There aren’t many folks out there who are willing or capable of managing this kind of non-traditional operation and so they set out to do it themselves. 

The results have been stunning. For Birdly alone they’ve seen far higher rider and revenue numbers than expected – even though they’ve only ever operated in pandemic conditions. What we are seeing in this example is that these kinds of ideas and inspirations work. Location-Based Entertainment work. That people are looking for new ways to interact, and that they are excited by the idea of their whole adventure out of the house taking the form of an immersive experience. It is no longer enough to be just an arcade or a shopping mall anymore. Owners and operators need to think about the complete experience they offer by asking themselves serious questions. What draws visitors in? How do they initially engage with the experience on offer? What attractions enhance the overall storyline? How do they ensure there are reasons for guests to return again and again?

Location-Based Entertainment is here to transform experiences.

At the end of the day, what we’re seeing in the aftermath of the pandemic is, no matter the timing or circumstance, a venue that takes into account what consumers are really looking for will be successful no matter what. If you think about the customer journey, offer them unique and interesting experiences and allow them to immerse in something special, you will have a successful venue.

About the author:

Aleko Lilly is the company’s Head of Business Development responsible for all Sales and Marketing activities. Prior to joining SOMNIACS in early 2020, he worked in business development and sales leadership in Seattle, USA, most recently with Zillow Group. Aleko has twelve years of experience as a sales and team leader in both small and large businesses. He holds a bachelor's degree in philosophy from Linfield College in Oregon, USA and an MBA in entrepreneurship from Seattle University Albers School of Business and Economics in Seattle, USA.

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