NAB: Location-Based Entertainment Could Be $12 Billion Industry in Five Years

A Starbreeze Studios exec warned that strong creative must lead this movement: "If we let technology lead this, we will fail."
Eric Charbonneau/Courtesy of Imax

Location-based entertainment will be a $1 billion market by year's end and make up about seven percent of the virtual reality industry, while by 2023, location-based entertainment will grow to a $12 billion market and make up about 11 percent of the VR industry, according to new projections from Greenlight Insights.

Presenting at NAB Show, which kicked off Saturday in Las Vegas, Greenlight Insights' virtual and augmented reality analyst Alexis Macklin offered an optimistic look at the direction of location-based entertainment, which includes the use of VR — combined with elements such as 4D effects — to place experiences in cinemas, theme parks, malls, museums and other such public spaces.

Underscoring this potential, startup Two Bit Circus is developing "micro amusement parks" with multi-person virtual and mixed reality experiences, the first of which is expected to open this summer in Los Angeles.

Nancy Bennett, chief creative officer at Two Bit Circus, views these experiences, when placed in cinemas, not as a threat but as an added draw.

Brooks Brown, global director and vp at Starbreeze Studios (the game developer behind the StarVR headsets), is optimistic about the potential, but warned that there are some shortcomings and great creative must lead the movement. "Technology is leading us," he warned. "But consumers don't care. They care about how good an experience it is. If we let technology lead this, we will fail."

The exec added that too many consumers see VR as "fun" but a "gimmick."

Brown emphasized that VR should be used to create something new. "We can't create shallow experiences," he asserted, using as an example Starbreeze's Hero, an experience that places the participant in Syria during a bombing.

All three speakers see e-sports as a VR opportunity. Bennett said this is an "integral part" of what Two Bit Circus is developing. Brown suggested that it may be a couple years away, as further technology development is needed. Macklin believes VR could change e-sports by attracting a wider audience beyond hard-core gamers.

Pete Lude, CTO of tech firm Mission Rock Digital, moderated the discussion, which was held as part of the NAB Future of Cinema conference.