Between horror shows, interactive versions of 3D animated movies, and group Star Wars adventures, The Void has established itself as a premier provider of location-based VR entertainment experiences — if you can find one of its 14 existing locations, most of which are in the United States and Canada. Today, the company announced that it’s working with major mall operator Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield to open 25 new locations over the next two and a half years, notably including a large number of major cities across the U.S. and Europe.
Under the plan, The Void’s current collection of three California entertainment centers (Anaheim, Glendale, and Santa Monica) will be joined by new pop-ups in Los Angeles, San Diego, and San Francisco during August and September, along with the company’s first outpost in New York City. All of these pop-ups will evolve into permanent locations in Westfield malls. Later, the company will add U.S. locations in Chicago and San Jose, along with European venues in Amsterdam, Copenhagen, London, Oberhausen, Paris, Stockholm, and Vienna.
The tie-up makes sense for both companies given The Void’s increasingly appealing collection of VR entertainment properties and the declining state of traditional malls. Working with Disney, The Void has leveraged hit properties such as Wreck-It Ralph and Star Wars to draw customers from the “Downtown” areas outside Disney’s theme parks; a Ghostbusters attraction is now one of two light horror experiences in the venues, further expanding their potential audiences.
As Void representatives told GamesBeat earlier this year, the Ralph Breaks VR experience alone required a year of development time, so the more widely the software can be deployed, the more return the company will see on that investment. The challenge is that the software is custom-built to be deployed on high-end VR hardware and used by multiple people in big spaces, radically reducing the likelihood that most VR owners could enjoy the experiences in the same ways at home.
That’s where shopping malls come in. The Void’s multi-person, large room-scale VR experiences can help use up some of their increasingly vacant spaces, which have recently been accommodating escape rooms and other non-retail tenants as brick-and-mortar stores have closed.
“Over the past years, our industry has evolved dramatically,” explained Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield CEO Christophe Cuvillier. “In a connected world, shopping is not enough anymore. Today, our customers expect to be entertained and brought together to share memorable, engaging sensory experiences. We are very happy to partner with The Void in an industry-first, to bring cutting edge immersive experiences like these to our visitors.”
Participants must be at least 10 years old and no shorter than four feet in height for each experience, which will cost upwards of $30 per person for around 20 minutes of VR — the total time including check-in and a pre-experience video requires between 30 minutes and an hour. The partners tease that there are “several new experiences still to be released” for Void guests, so if Star Wars and Ghostbusters aren’t enough for you, stay tuned. An unnamed Marvel experience is expected to launch later this year.