Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - China’s fast-growing virtual reality arcades aim for real-world success



China’s fast-growing virtual reality arcades aim for real-world success

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
A woman plays a video game using a virtual-reality headset at an arcade in Shanghai. MATTHEW KNIGHT/afp

China’s fast-growing virtual reality arcades aim for real-world success

CHEN Jiuxiao puts on virtual-reality goggles and is immediately transported to a snow-covered ski slope, down which she slaloms without ever leaving Shanghai.

“I felt weightless skiing down the mountain,” Chen, 25, gushes after re-emerging in the material world.

“The scenery around me was so authentic,” she adds.

Chen, a hospitality worker, said she ventured into one of Shanghai’s VR arcades due to word of mouth from her tech-savvy friends.

China had an estimated 3,000 VR arcades in 2016, and the market was forecast to grow 13-fold between then and 2021 to amount to 5.25 billion yuan ($782 million), according to a joint report by iResearch Consulting Group and Greenlight Insights.

Add in the profits to be made from headsets, equipment, games and other products, and it’s little wonder that augmented-reality and virtual-reality industries are excited about China.

“Chinese growth in the next five years could see it dominate AR/VR long-term – and not by a small margin,” Silicon Valley consultancy Digi-Capital said in a report last year.

“China has the potential to take more than $1 of every $5 spent” in the industry globally by 2022, it added.

Quality shortage

One key factor is China’s government. Tens of millions of Chinese have become obsessive players of mobile video games, causing concern that China was raising a generation of myopic youngsters addicted to battle games.

Authorities imposed curbs last year on the number of new game releases and playing time for youths, rattling the industry and shaving billions off the market value of big players including gaming giant Tencent.

But the government is pushing hard for China to become a world leader in next-generation technologies including artificial intelligence and autonomous vehicles. VR has been lumped into that favoured class, benefitting from a slew of preferential policies.

Chen Wei, manager of Shanghai VR arcade Machouse, said VR was likely to avoid the fate of mobile video games in China.

He cites the relatively high cost of arcade play – up to 70 yuan or more for a 15-minute game – and of setting up home systems.

“It’s hard for minors to get addicted,” he said.

The nascent VR games industry suffers from a shortage of high-quality games, however. At Shanghai’s VR+ Amusement Park, a new game lands only once every three months, officials there said.

VR explosion

Firms such as Tencent remain hesitant to dive in to the arcade scene until the sector reaches critical mass, analysts explained.

But the company, along with fellow Chinese giants Alibaba and Baidu, is investing in virtual online shopping and VR entertainment, all of which could trickle down into gaming.

Already a number of towns and cities in China have declared themselves incubator zones that are integrating VR into research, manufacturing, education and other spheres, luring in capital, according to Chinese reports.

Seekers VR, which is based in the eastern city of Wenzhou and owns a franchised chain of 200 arcades in more than 70 cities across China, is working with the Wenzhou government to establish a college focused on educating students about VR and using the technology in lessons.

“There is no dominant competitor in the VR industry since it is so immature, and we will bring more and more opportunity,” said Seekers VR’s CEO Belle Chen.

The expected wide-scale adoption in China of ultra-fast 5G networks is expected to further boost VR development and foster growth in areas such as education and training, said Chen Wei.

He said: “There is no better way to learn skills, and at a lower cost, than VR. Even though VR is still educating users about what it is, it could explode someday.”

MOST VIEWED

  • No more Africa travel ban but new rules for arrivals

    The Ministry of Health has decided to lift the ban on travellers from or who have travelled through 10 African countries and instead issued a set of standard operating procedures to manage passenger arrivals at Cambodia’s international airports. The 10 African countries are Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho,

  • Prince Norodom Ranariddh passes away at 77

    Prince Norodom Ranariddh, the second son of the late King Father Norodom Sihanouk and former First Prime Minister of Cambodia, has passed away in France at the age of 77. “Samdech Krom Preah Norodom Ranariddh has passed away this morning in France just after 9am Paris-time,”

  • Cambodia purchases 4 million Molnupiravir tablets

    Cambodia has arranged for the purchase of four million US-made Molnupiravir pills – enough to treat 100,000 Covid-19 patients – even though the current rate of daily infections in Cambodia remains low. The medicine will be distributed to state hospitals, pharmacies and private clinics, according to the Samdech

  • Rise in planned flights lifts travel hopes

    Six airlines have applied to resume flights in December, while two others have put in for additional flights and routes, according to State Secretariat of Civil Aviation (SSCA) head Mao Havannall on November 29. These account for 43 new weekly domestic and international flights in December, up 16

  • Is Cambodia’s travel sector in for another cheerless holiday season?

    The travel and tourism sector was heaving back to life as borders started to reopen, promising a festive vibe for the holidays and New Year. But Omicron and other Covid-related issues are threatening to close the year on a bleak note ‘Seems [like] Covid-19 won’

  • PM blasts Vietnam general over Covid claims

    Prime Minister Hun Sen on December 6 expressed dismay after Vietnamese general Hoang Xuan Chien, formerly in charge of Vietnam’s border defences, claimed that Cambodia was a source of Covid-19 transmissions to the country. Speaking at the opening ceremony for National Road 11 connecting Prey Veng