The team behind a popular virtual reality arcade at Cape Town’s Victoria & Alfred Waterfront is now planning to bring the concept to Johannesburg.
Founder Zach Joubert, who is an advocate and a member of the Cape Bar, said in an interview with TechCentral this week that VRCade, which is located in the Watershed building, adjacent to the Two Oceans Aquarium, will be coming to Johannesburg in the next few months.
VRCade, which showcases virtual reality technology, software and solutions, rents time to people interested in using VR to play games or interact with VR environments. Access costs R250/hour.
Joubert, who went “straight from high school to law school to law practice”, said he has always had a “bit of geek flair”, and grew up as a keen video gamer — mainly role-playing and strategy games such as Baldur’s Gate 2 and Sid Meier’s Civilization.
He moved to the UK, where he studied computer game design. But, after working as a software developer there, he decided to move back to South Africa. Originally from Johannesburg, he relocated to Cape Town.
With VR headsets from companies like Oculus VR (now part of Facebook) and HTC hitting the market, Joubert realised there was an opportunity to get them in the hands of South Africans.
He started importing the headsets. A few experimental “pop-up” VR arcades he ran at events convinced him there was a market for it.
It was while he was studying towards a master’s degree in intellectual property law at the University of Cape Town that the business started to take shape.
“UCT’s Graduate School of Business sent out a call for proposals, saying if you have a business idea or a fledgling business you want to get off the ground, get in touch,” he said. He pitched it, they liked the idea, and a week later he was invited onto their programme.
Because of time constraints — he runs his own busy litigation practice — Joubert recruited Chery Simson, who served as his proxy on the business school programme. (Today, Simson is VRcade’s operations manager.)
“It was all very conjectural at that stage. They’d shoot down our plans, tell us to do more research. This programme lasted more than three months.”
Eventually, through a friend, the team found space at Workshop 17, where, since 1 September, it has been open daily from 12pm to 8pm on weekdays and 10.30am to 10pm on weekends.
“We’ve been quite busy in the last couple of weeks because of school holidays,” said Joubert. “There’s been plenty of interest from people having birthday parties and from people wanting to do corporate training,” he said.
VRCade has four VR stations, but this will be expanded to six in the coming days and eight in the next month. “We are using HTC Vive headsets mainly, but we also have the Oculus Rift. We focus mainly on multiplayer experiences.”
Joubert said VRCade wants to open a 16-station arcade in Johannesburg, if the company can find sufficient space at the right price. The Johannesburg arcade should open by no later than January. “It’ll be sooner if we find a good spot.” — © 2016 NewsCentral Media