Virtual reality scales back its real world presence

While few things may me feel more like social distancing than suiting up in a haptic feedback suit and strapping a computer to your face, location-based virtual reality startups have begun closing up shop alongside a host of other entertainment businesses.

The closures came quickly Monday as city governments began announcing far-reaching measures.

Disney-backed VR startup The Void announced Monday that they would be closing all of their locations in North America. LA’s Two Bit Circus closed their doors yesterday because of Covid-19. Dreamscape Immersive announced yesterday that it has temporarily closed all of its VR entertainment centers across Los Angeles, Dallas, Columbus and Dubai.

“As much as we enjoy sharing virtual reality worlds with you, we cannot ignore what’s happening in the real world,” a post on Dreamscape Immersive’s site read in part.

Not all location-based VR startups have fully scaled back operations stateside. A16z-backed Sandbox VR has temporarily closed locations in Los Angeles and San Francisco (where city officials have mandated closures for most entertainment venues), though the rest of their U.S. locations appear to remain open for reservations on their website. We’ve reached out for more details.

The broader closings are an unsurprising development as more governments across the country push to temporarily shutter non-essential public businesses, something that has swiftly impacted entertainment venues. AMC and Regal announced yesterday that they would each be closing down all of their US theaters temporarily.

Location-based VR startups have been some of the more resilient companies in the face of what has been a years-long slog for the virtual reality industry. Sandbox VR has raised more than $82 million from investors, Dreamscape Immersive has raised over $36 million, while The Void has raised $20 million.

Most of these startups create or license gaming content and allow consumers to book appointments to try out the title. Their success has largely been tied to their independence from broader consumer VR headset sales which have largely failed to meet early expectations by wide margins.

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