GENTING HIGHLANDS: Following the launch of its first centre in Asia Pacific at Resorts World Genting, virtual reality (VR) experience company The Void is eyeing expansion into other “super cities” in Asia, including Singapore and Beijing.
Speaking to Channel NewsAsia following the launch of The Void’s centre in Genting Highlands on Thursday (Dec 6), the CEO of its Asia operations, Mr John Watkins, confirmed that the company is set to open more than 100 virtual reality entertainment centres in the region within the next five years.
“In terms of prioritisation - Greater China, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand - these are the countries we are looking at,” Mr Watkins said.
“But we are looking less at a country level and more at a city level, and really looking at the super cities, the capital cities in the region,” Mr Watkins added.
For its centre in Genting Highlands, The Void has launched two blockbuster-themed experiences – Star Wars: Secrets of the Empire and Ralph breaks VR, based on the Walt Disney cartoon Wreck-It Ralph.
For Star Wars, guests will gun down Stormtroopers while feeling the full impact of their blaster rifles, smell molten lava from the planet they landed on and push buttons to solve interactive puzzles to escape monsters.
Meanwhile for Ralph breaks VR, visitors will squash pixel bugs, fend off hordes of cute bunnies and shoot retro alien spaceships with a pancake launcher.
For its Genting Highlands centre, The Void is looking to include a Ghostbusters theme early next year and a Marvel experience from the middle of 2019.
CAN A VR EXPERIENCE REPLACE WATCHING A MOVIE?
Unlike watching a movie, the virtual reality experience means visitors get to "become" the characters in these attractions. This allows them to see, feel, hear and smell the experience - simply by donning a helmet and vest and walking around the digital playground.
Mr Watkins reiterated that The Void is looking to bring these experiences to more cities in the region based on criteria such as income per capita and the volume of international tourists.
As such, Singapore is one of its key targets.
“We definitely want to be in Singapore. We are in active discussions with multiple landlords in Singapore. By this time next year we would have at least one centre open,” he said.
For Greater China, The Void is eyeing Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Shenzhen and Hong Kong, Mr Watkins said.
“These kind of cities bring all of (the favourable factors) together, in the same way the likes of Los Angeles, New York City, London do,” Mr Watkins added.
The Void's chairman and CEO Craig Watson, who was also present at the launch, highlighted that Asia is prepared to embrace the virtual reality experience.
“It’s a deep sense of presence, it’s a differentiator. Does this take over movies? It’s totally unrelated,” said Mr Watson.
The Void currently has nine experience centres globally, including five in the United States, two in Canada, one in Dubai and its latest venue in Genting Highlands.
“In a movie you lie back and be passive and you watch a story. (In The Void experience), you’re the lead character of the story. It’s fun, but it’s active, not passive so I don’t think you can compare.”