Virtual Reality (VR) has been a revelation for the entertainment and leisure industry in UAE and the rest of the GCC region. While VR has been around for quite some time, it has recently provided the opportunity for theme parks to present new and exciting experiences to their visitors. Industry experts such as International Expo Consults, organisers of DEAL – the largest exhibition for the entertainment and leisure industry in the MENA region, foresee this concept to take off completely by 2019.
According to Sharif Rahman, CEO, IEC, “Theme parks have always been tried to provide exotic experiences to the visitors. Earlier they used to utilize painted sceneries, and then dark rides, animatronics, projections and then 3D technology. VR is the next step in the evolution of the entertainment segment and has been talked as the next big thing in the industry. In DEAL 2018, we had multiple exhibitors such as ASI, Warehouse of Games, Kyona and many Chinese exhibitors who had VR based games and applications. Virtual Reality is a popular concept that has captured the attention of the world. Even in Dubai, there are many options for VR based rides in Hub Zero, Magic Planet and the VR Park that opened up earlier this year.”
Many theme park operators around the world have utilized the VR technology to spice up their rides. By using VR headsets, the ordinary rollercoaster becomes an immersive experience which can take the visitor to far and distant real and imaginary lands or even underwater. While it is a good strategy to re-package the ride as a new experience every few months, there is still a few drawbacks of utilizing the technology. The turnaround time has increased significantly – the amount of time and staff that is required to get the visitors in and out of the headsets has increased. Therefore, making the lines longer and more importantly – the costs significantly higher. A theme park also introduced a two-part headset that would reduce the amount of time it takes to cycle a guest. Such innovations are required to overcome the failings and achieve the enormous potential the technology holds.
Another method of utilizing VR without involving the rides in the park is to have free roaming VR experiences. Visitors can be armed with weapons to blast aliens or zombies or other villains in an immersive video game. Various branded titles such as Ghostbusters, Star Wars have already lent their trademarks for similar experiences. Perhaps developers will figure out a way to merge the two and provide a combination of free roaming and VR ride enhancement experience.
“In the Middle East and Northern Africa market, where the industry favours indoor venues due to the harsh summer conditions, VR parks would enjoy a similar traction. The popularity is not only because of the cyclical and weather dependent nature of the outdoor theme parks in the region but also because of the intensive and immersive experience offered. Such parks would allow for round-the-year operations since they aren’t guided by an uncontrollable factor-the climate. Theme parks in other parts of the world aren’t affected by such issues,” added Rahman.
DEAL 2019 will represent the largest gathering of entertainment and leisure industry’s key players and visitors from the Middle East, Africa, US, Mediterranean and Asian countries. DEAL has shaped the region’s entertainment industry for the last two and a half decades and it has brought together opinion leaders and high-tech innovations all on one platform. Opening its doors for the 25th time, DEAL 2019 is scheduled to be held between the 25th-27th March 2019 at Halls 1, 2, 3 and 4 at the World Trade Centre, Dubai.