#1151 – Immersive Entertainment Shines in Orlando – Part 6

This marks the sixth part of our International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA’22) convention coverage.

The crossover between traditional amusement and the interest in immersive technology saw “Immersive Amusement” products appear from many quarters. For example, as seen from LAI Gamesthe amusement powerhouse, with a major presence in the deployment of VR into amusement. Along with their amusement releases, the company launched the continuation of their partnership with HTC, employing their VR technology. The innovation ushered in by ‘Virtual Rabbids: The Big Ride’ cannot be underestimated in the amusement scene. Celebrating some five-years since its launch, and over 1,000 sales for the system, the latest update to the platform was shown to European attendees at IAAPA-EMA’22 with ‘Virtual Rabbids: Ultra HD’. As reported on during our IBE’22 coverage, the updated platform includes the new HTC VIVE Pro 2 headsets, offering a wider FOV than the previous version, along with improved HD 5K resolution, supported by a more powerful computer package with the NVIDIA GeForce RTX graphics card – all this and an updated DBOX motion platform. 

LAI also represented a new third-party VR amusement experience with ‘Asphalt 9 Legends Arcade – VR’. As was leaked while on test, a prototype version was launched at the Orlando show. Developed by IGS, Gameloft and manufactured by Wahlap Technology (Wahlap Amusement), the VR version comprises a 5D motion seat and race controls, and even an audience screen. This is the latest racing car amusement piece given a VR makeover, with Wahlap having also released the ‘Overtake VR’ from 2018. It is important to remember that the ‘Asphalt 9 Legend Arcade’ is based on a popular Gameloft, mobile game IP, and saw over 1 billion YouTube views when launched. This social media footprint and strong IP recognition also played a part on the rest of the LAI booth. 

Branding marketing and IP seems to be driving much development, also had a selection of new amusement pieces to wow the attendees. On the redemption side, the company unveiled ‘Rick and Morty – Blips and Chitz!’ – a pusher-style game, based on the successful television series celebrating its sixth season, being the highest rated telecast comedy series for men and women between the age of 18-34. The animated series, featuring the dysfunctional characters screened by Adult Swim, has spawned a wealth of merchandising and spin-off branding.  Building on the appeal of licensed property, LAI also presented a unique concept with ‘Out of Time’ – a redemption game based on the top YouTube gaming channel ‘FGTeeV’ (Family Gaming Team), employing the time travelling theme of the channel and of their latest graphic novel. With over some 53m fans of the YouTube channel, this marks a new investment in the rich vein of social media-based properties for application as entertainment platforms. Obviously, the target audience for these amusements is aware of the popular YouTube channel claiming some 33m US fans (aged between 13 and 17), and so hoping to live off the audience appeal. Even specialist merch has been created that embraces the channel brand.

Barron Games – presenting their partnership with manufacturers Somniacs, representing the ‘Birdly: Serial Edition’, the VR flying platform offering a unique experience for players, with physical effects such as wind and motion as they soar through the sky, viewing the virtual world through their HTC Vive Pro headset. The company at the show had on display the new experience ‘Wingsuit Racer’ – able to offer networked competition up-to-four players. Also on display during the show was the ‘Koliseum Soccer’ VR amusement platform, powered by Kynoa, another Swiss developer. The four-player cabinet uses VR headsets and a specially developed foosball-style cabinet that allows players to compete in a virtual tabletop game experience. 

UNIS Technology came to Orlando with a crowded booth and some new surprises. Along with the previously revealed redemption, amusement, and price systems such as ‘Wicked Tuna’ and ‘Pogo Jump’, the company had some surprises. Adding to the growing list of VR ride amusement pieces, UNIS showed ‘Sailor’s Quest: VR’ – the two-player system has guests on a 5D motion-platform, blasting piratical opponents using a mounted laser-cannon, using the HP Reverb 4K VR headsets, while the themed cabinet also includes physical effects such as an air blower. The game offers thrills and spills, and end level bosses from the depths of the ocean and beyond. The game was much more than just another of the VR rider examples, and had a very compelling game, feeling like a fun arcade shooter in VR and proving a very popular new release – we look forward to hearing how this performs. 

SEGA Amusement International (SAI) – a brand-new video amusement release is given the IAAPA treatment, as SAI presented ‘Drone Racing Genesis’, their latest new title. It offers a seated cabinet and has the players using, for the first time in a racing game, joystick control of their drone. This is one of the most modern looking cabinets in SAI’s line-up, with strong LED theming (the cabinet looks like the seat is part of a motion system, which is not the case, but maybe a consideration for a future deluxe). The game play itself feeds off the hugely popular eSports drone racing scene. The company also showed ‘Storm Rider 2’, a sequel to the 2013 motorbike racing release (also known as ‘Storm Racer MT’ as part of the operation series of racing games), originally developed by 3MindWave and manufactured and distributed by Wahlap Technology, with a four-machine network capability. SAI also had on booth their ‘VR Agent’ shooting experience, also developed in partnership. Other new videos on display included ‘Crazy Rafting’.

Being represented on the booth by SAI was 501 Entertainment and their ‘AR Darts’ platform, coming to the Orlando show with their social entertainment range. This platform is seeing much interest in a market that saw, at this year’s show, a lot of investment and many AR-based darts, bowling, and axe-throwing examples. SAI also brought a large selection of their prize and redemption products and, like others, also played the licensed IP card in their new line-up. The company showed ‘Bop It! Arcade’, an addictive redemption machine based on the popular Hasbro competitive toy. This has proven a hit with operators since its launch, and saw serious orders being placed that have seen the initial build plans quadrupled to meet the demand reflecting positive reaction.

Wahlap Technology – this year marked an important point for the Chinese manufacturer and developer of amusement, with Wahlap celebrating its 30th anniversary. Along with the research and manufacturing of amusement, the company also co-operates several amusement facilities in their home territory (including their ‘Funloop Land’ chain), as well as developing hardware deployed by many well-known amusement names. With many products represented on other amusement exhibitors’ booths, the company decided to show on their booth the AR-based shooting game ‘Sniper Strike III’, with its physical guns and scope shooting. Next to this was the deluxe motion platform version of the motorbike racer ‘Speed Rider 3’. The company also exhibited the previously released VR amusement piece ‘Overtake VR’ – along with other previously released videogames. 

VR360Action – as we have reported on previously in our AmuseExpo’22 coverage, the company represents versions of their popular VR designs, sold and supported in the US. On the booth, the company showed their ‘OMG Simulator’, offering two-rider motion VR experiences, using the DPVR E3 headsets. For the younger players, there were examples of the ‘Baby Sharks’ and ‘Children’s Dinosaur’ fun VR ride-on-systems. Also on display was the ‘VR Motorcycle’ platform, and the new ‘VR 360 Arena’ – a four-player tethered VR enclosure, with a selection of shooting games running on the PICO Neo 3 headset. All this and the company had a new VR kiosk system ‘Action Stand’ that offered a selection of games using a tethered retractable headset. The company confirmed that all their hardware will now be moving to the HP Reverb headset and incorporating bill and card acceptors to be operated fully unattended.

Rilix – the company came to the IAAPA’22 event with their range of cost-effective VR Rides (‘Rilix Coaster’). A familiar face in the sector, the company was offering the platform as both an amusement (card operated) system, or as a mall rental platform – the systems use Meta Quest 2 headsets. The company has been working on a new interactive experience to support their range of passive VR ride experiences, and we hope to have a report on the new system soon, based on a licensed property and partnership with an amusement manufacturer that is currently in development. 

BANDAI NAMCO Amusement America (BNAA) – another amusement manufacturer breaking into IAAPA with a new release, on show for the first time, was ‘Dead Heat Unleashed’. First seen on location-test (loc-test) by our friends at ArcadeHeroes, and based on the 2010 original, this is the second sequel, as previously BNAA had another title ‘Dead Heat Riders’ that sold well for the company in 2013. The new game offers a four-player street racer, with much of the unique elements and game play style from the original. A simple play style allows for players to jump into the action, with the simplified controls, and proved great fun.

Another of the new games on the BNAA booth was the latest release from Adrenaline Amusements called ‘NFS: Heat Takedown’, based on the popular Need for Speed (NFS) property. It was interesting to see two street racers on the BNAA booth. While other amusement manufacturers in the US return to including a strong street racer in their line-up, some of this was encouraged by the success of LAI Games’ ‘Asphalt 9 Legend Arcade’ release. Also on the BNAA booth were two versions of the previously released ‘PAC-MAN Battle Royale Chompionship’, including the deluxe eight-player variant. Surprisingly, BNAA was one of the few amusement manufacturers and distributors who did not have any VR or MR products on their booth – although sources suggest that, in 2023, that situation may be addressed. 

Adrenaline Amusements had another crowded booth, with a selection of their previously released amusement properties. Although pride of place was given to the new racer ‘NFS: Heat Takedown’ – currently in a production prototype stage, with the final version to be shipped in January 2023. The game offers four-player networked fast-paced competition, with racers battling for the top slot, while also attempting to avoid being caught by the police during the illegal race and “taking-down” the competition. The NFS property is well known from its outing in the Electronic Arts consumer game series (among the best-selling video game franchise), and this game also includes several licensed car properties. 

Betson Enterprises – having a crowded booth of their own and representing the extensive Raw Thrills range, leading the charge was ‘Fast & Furious: Arcade’ – fresh from its reveal at IAAPA-EMEA’22 (see our coverage), with the deluxe motion and large screen setup. The system was seen on the Betson booth as well as the BNAA booth and wowed the crowds as it has done internationally. The system is racing into the pack of driving amusement pieces swarming the market. The company also had some new surprises for the IAAPA show, launching for the first time ‘MotoGP VR’ – the motorbike racer now includes a tethered VR headset (HP Reverb), and the company is creating a brand-new version of their popular racer which supports VR by using a conventional ride-on cabinet modified to take the VR system, shown in a two-rider version at the show. This VR title is a complement to the company’s already released VR ride experience, ‘King Kong: of Skull Island’, which was also presented at the show.

The other new release on the Betson booth was the reveal of ‘HALO Fireteam Raven’. Following on from their previous deluxe HALO mounted shooting game experience, the company has developed a four-player light gun version, with the players able to blast threw hordes of aliens from the popular sci-fi game property, wielding the iconic HALO assault rifle controller. This version builds on the assets and story from the previous game, and once again sees Play Mechanix working in partnership with property owners 343 Industries and Microsoft, to develop the game. It was revealed that the cabinet will be released in both the four-player and a smaller two-player configuration. 

Andamiro USA – the licensed IP continued to drive redemption innovation with ‘Avengers Infinity Stone Challenge’, a skill-based redemption game, their second Marvel / Disney licensed title. Along with a selection of their redemption and prize systems – including ‘SpongeBob Pirates of Bikini Bottom’ (a new ball and card pusher) and ‘SpongeBob Ticket Coaster’ – the company is working on a special project soon to be revealed, that will see their SpongeBob license also be deployed in a new amusement platform (more details to follow).

Andamiro USA also presented their ‘Pump It Up’ cabinet featuring XX software – the 20th anniversary edition of this legendary dancing stage music game, first released in 1999. There was some speculation across the large rhythm game music scene, that this was to be the last version to be released by the South Korean developer of the series. But following the show, the developers revealed they are in fact working on a bran- new version of the Pump It Up game to be released in the first half of 2023 – full details to follow soon.  

The dancing stage scene was also represented by Step Revolution, who brought the latest examples of their ‘StepManiaX’ series. The game is finding strong interest in the amusement and entertainment scene, especially looking at the “Fitness Gaming” scene, where the product has gained popularity. The connected systems with their tournament element were on display, with the standard and deluxe cabinet versions. 

Speaking of the music game amusement scene, and while the scene in the West is represented by these two stalwarts for the still strong player-base, the sector in Japan continues to see new investment, with the news that KONAMI had on loc-test ‘beatmania IIDX 30 RESIDENT’ the latest instalment in the 30-series strong rhythm game since its launch in 1997. The music game pump is still being worked vigorously by the company regarding their remaining video-amusement investment, also seeing testing of ‘pop’n music UniLab’. Sources suggest that, at the return of the physical JAEPO trade show in February, several new BEMANI titles will be rolled out – expect more details soon. Although Western operators are not totally blind to considering investing in these machines’ popularity after social media promotion, and especially after operators such as Round1 USA have seen strong audience support to new machine placements. 

exA-Arcadia – the company had a crowed booth, doubling down on their Western presence for their platform, with 16 examples of their new cabinet (‘ARC-1’) which moves away from previous designs for a more traditional approach to the upright cabinet – offering a rotatable monitor and one-, two-, and four-player modular control panel (which can be switched out). The company had brought 31 games to the show, representing the currently available library for the platform, including a selection in development of releases for 2023.  

Incredible Technologies – the manufacturer came to the Orlando event with their ‘Golden Tee Golf’ game series, now in a new pared down and reimaged cabinet, including a touchscreen and cupholders, all with a 55’’ 4K display. The platform has been revamped as it continues to prove a strong draw in the hospitality market. It was announced that the mobile game version of the popular property would be launching on the Skillz mobile gaming competition platform. The new ‘Golden Tee: Tournament Edition’ is targeted at the platform’s monthly 2.7 million active competitive gamers. This is three years after the launch of the first ‘Golden Tee Mobile’ game. Skillz began trading on the New York Stock Exchange in 2020, providing competitive cash prize gaming on mobile iOS and Android platforms. Sources revealed that Incredible Technologies would be increasing their investment into their slot machine gaming line, building on their popularity in the casino sector.

About the author

Kevin Williams

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The brainchild of two location-based experience enthusiasts, Christine Buhr and Brandon Willey, the LBX Collective aims to inform and educate, create opportunities to connect with industry peers, and to spur collaboration, discourse, and cross-pollination of ideas.

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