Netflix’s most watched show of all time, Squid Game, is coming to Sandbox VR locations only, who already offer a Star Trek VR experience, but Stranger Things, also from Netflix, will be playable home.
Set to launch in late 2023, the Squid Game virtual reality experience will be available only at Sandbox VR locations around the world. Sandbox is a futuristic VR experience for groups of up to 6 where you can see and physically interact with everyone inside, just like the real world. Inspired by Star Trek’s Holodeck, the company’s exclusive worlds let you feel like you’re living inside a game or movie, and are built by EA, Sony, and Ubisoft veterans.
Participants in the Squid Game virtual reality experience will go through a series of challenges inspired by the Netflix series and compete against each other in virtual recreations of iconic Squid Game locations. As participants dress up in Squid Game gear, their real body is transformed into their virtual body, and they become part of the action. Sandbox VR says that “thanks to Hollywood motion capture cameras, 3D precision body trackers, custom hardware, and haptic suits, you get a feeling of transformation you can’t get anywhere else. You might forget you left reality.”
The company, who had been attracting interest from influencers since its inception announced in 2019 an additional $11M in funding from notable Silicon Valley and Hollywood icons, including Justin Timberlake, Katy Perry, Orlando Bloom and Will Smith. Then the pandemic hit, and all the projects went downhill. In April 2020 Sandbox VR laid off 80% of its staff, as “Literally, 100% of the revenue is gone,”, said CEO Steve Zhao in an interview. August the same year the company filled for bankruptcy, another victim of the business and social disruptions caused by Covid-19.
World-class immersive experiences
Steve Zhao acknowledged then that the emerging location-based VR industry would face an uphill battle for some time to come, but already in 2022, only two years later, the company was opening a new location, in Colorado, adding it to the total of 25 free-roam virtual reality experience locations open across the United States, Canada, Asia and Europe. It was time to restart the talks with Netflix about developing games based on the streamer’s shows. The company has now 30 locations around the world and plans to have more than 50 locations by the end of 2023.
While home playable VR experiences are great, the level of sophistication offered by VR locations puts them in a completely different level. Together with friends, family, or co-workers, players are equipped with a VR headset, a haptic vest, a backpack, and motion sensors on their wrists and ankles. This technology allows players to see and physically interact with one another while feeling like they are in the middle of an action movie, with the heightened emotions that come from not just watching a film, but from actually becoming the stars of the action. It’s no longer just about watching the movie, it’s about being in the movie.
“Our mission is to bring people closer together through world-class immersive experiences. What could be a more perfect fit than Squid Game, the most widely shared and discussed television series of the past years. It’s an amazing opportunity to partner with Netflix to provide these fans the chance to transport themselves into the world of the show,” said Steve Zhao, founder and CEO of Sandbox VR.
Be part of a Star Trek Away Team
Netflix’s Squid Game VR experience will join another film and television star already part of the offer from Sandbox VR, Star Trek. Built in partnership with CBS Interactive, Star Trek: Discovery Away Mission fully immerses players in the world of Star Trek, as they join the crew aboard the U.S.S. Discovery. In your role as Starfleet officer, you’ll have the chance to stand on a transporter pad with your own two feet and get beamed to your Away Mission.
Guiding you on your mission is Starfleet officer Sylvia Tilly (voiced by Mary Wiseman). As an Away Team, you will investigate a mysterious distress signal originating from an unexplored alien world. Using iconic Starfleet equipment like the phaser and tricorder, it is up to your crew to work together to solve the mystery and survive the perils along the way.
Squid Game and Star Trek confirm the potential of the link between VR experiences and TV and movie titles. It’s nothing new, as the gaming industry has explored the connection for decades now, but VR locations take the whole experience to a new level, closer than ever to the idea of Star Trek’s Holodeck, which is the “Holy Grail” for all the immersive technology related to these free-roam virtual reality experience locations.
Stranger Things and Peaky Blinders both in VR
While home playable VR does not offer the same level of immersive experience, it is also a path to explore the link between two worlds that have so much in common: movies (and TV series) and games. A good example, again making the bridge between distinct medias, is the upcoming Stranger Things VR, which taps on another popular show from Netflix to offer a Virtual Reality experience.
Announced at Stranger Things Day 2022, the Stranger Things VR game, set to arrive in Winter 2023 on major VR platforms, lets you play as the fearsome Season 4 villain Vecna. “Become an explorer of unknown realities as you form the hive mind and tame the void. Invade minds and conjure nightmares in your quest to enact revenge on Eleven and Hawkins.” reads the press-release.
Developed by Tender Claws, this is not the only VR game based in Stranger Things. Released on the PlayStation Store on December 12, 2017, Stranger Things: The VR Experience is a first-person virtual reality adventure-horror game based on the Stranger Things series, and developed by Sony for the PlayStation 4. You can have a glimpse of one of the most thrilling scenes from the show in 360 video on a flat screen, or using a Google Cardboard if you dare…
So, whether at home or at a VR location near you, it will be possible, in 2023, to play Stranger Things and Squid Game in VR, becoming part of the whole story through an immersive experience. These two titles join the already available Star Trek: Discovery Away Mission, a series, Star Trek, which is the origin of the Holodeck concept that seems to be the common link between all these experiences: creating a virtual room that immerses the player or players in the universe of the movies and TV series they like to watch. It’s the same logic that is behind the development of a game based on the Peaky Blinders TV series, which will be available as a VR experience for home use in March.
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