When Survios asked us to come to Las Vegas to see what they've been working on, we really didn't know what to expect. We were pleasantly surprised to find an entire space dedicated to gaming in Virtual Reality, right here on the Casino floor.
Called VR @ the LINQ, it is part of a collaboration between Caesar's Entertainment and Survios to add future technologies to the casinos and hotels that Caesar's operate.
Who is Survios?
Survios has been in the VR game for a while now, making some really excellent games — games like Raw Data, Sprint Vector, and the very awesome Creed: Rise to glory — and has recently moved into making VR arcades.
Its first arcade down in Torrence, California, has seen a lot of success, allowing people to play VR games using the best possible equipment, so they can truly appreciate the experience.
This new arcade in the LINQ is no different, except now you can enjoy VR as part of your overall Vegas experience, instead of having to find a dedicated arcade to play.
So how does it work?
VR @ the LINQ is essentially six booths, each with a high-end VR headset, a projector, and gaming PC inside them. Each of the booths is capable of playing six different games, and you can choose to play as many or as few games as you like in the time allowed.
When you get to the VR booth — located up by the Re:Match bar on Las Vegas Boulevard — there is an automated reservation system, so if the booths are all full, you can book one for a later date and come back to it. The system is seamless, and you even get an email or SMS message letting you know when your reservation time is nearing.
Once you are ready to play, an assistant will be there to help you into the headset and explain how it all works. This is important for places like this as a lot of the people using them will have never used VR before and we want their first experience to be a positive one. After all, VR is an emerging technology and the more people that experience it in a positive way the better.
Each booth can be rented for as little as 15 minutes, to up to an hour, and in that time you are free to play any of the six games available. When you are in the main menu a small timer appears in the top right of your screen and the system warns you when you are getting close to your time limit.
It's not a bad system. If the timer was on screen it would always limit your enjoyment. You would always be worrying about how long you have left. The way Survios do it is as unobtrusive as possible within the confines of a timed environment.
What games are there?
Survios have chosen to use its own games exclusively in the booths here. It makes sense, after all, this is something new, and Survios may as well make sure it's financially viable before they think about licensing other games. The games you can play are:
- Raw Data
- Sprint Vector
- Creed: Rise to Glory
- Just in Time
Several of these games are multiplayer and can be played across the booths, allowing you to fight with your friends while you play. Making this is a co-op experience is a really good move by Survios, as you are likely to get bachelor, and bachelorette parties involved if they can all play together.
How much does it cost?
It's not cheap but gets cheaper the longer you play. You are going to be paying $25 for 15 minutes of gameplay, $45 for 30 minutes, and $65 for the full hour.
To compare, the Void -- a VR experience that takes you around a set storyline -- lasts about 15 minutes but costs $33 each. Now the void does have smell towers and is a more mobile experience but the prices for VR @ the LINQ are comparable and, for Las Vegas, not unreasonable.
Let's get technical
Each of the booths is equipped with an HTC Vive Pro, powered by an Alienware gaming PC. The PC is packed with an Intel i9 chipset and an Nvidia 2080 Graphics card. That is a huge amount of power and you can see it when you have the headset on. There is no lag, at all, just fast, responsive, and enjoyable VR.
This is, after all, what HTC made the Vive Pro for, high-end business use. With multiple users using it for hours at a time, the system needs to be able to cope, and from what I can see these Vive headsets should be able to stand the test of time.
How viable is this likely to be?
On launch day all the booths were full for several hours. We went passed it later in the evening and there were still people clamoring to get on. It may be though, that those people were there specifically to play VR on that day.
Time will tell though, the next day was far less busy. During the whole day -- we went passed the booths six or seven times -- we only saw two people using the booths. The evenings may well be much busier though, as people get drunk and brave enough to throw on a headset and shoot some robots.
Survios and Caesar's are trying something new here, and whether it succeeds or fails I think the try is a good one. We need companies like this to take a chance on VR and show people all the amazing stuff they can do in a virtual world.
With these six booths Survios and Caesar's are investing in the future, and betting that enough people will be interested in doing the same. It's a small outlay for these companies but could be the start of something great.