Air­ports open­ing gam­ing par­lors to oc­cupy trav­el­ers

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution - - BUSINESS - By Justin Bach­man Bloomberg News

As air­port time-killers, cock­tails will never lose their most-fa­vored sta­tus. But the race for novel con­ces­sions in­side the ter­mi­nal is be­com­ing more, well, play­ful. Es­pe­cially when it comes to mol­li­fy­ing less-than-happy pas­sen­gers.

Last month, the first U.S. air­port video game lounges opened with three dozen Mi­crosoft XBox rigs at Dal­las-Fort Worth In­ter­na­tional, while John F. Kennedy In­ter­na­tional Air­port in New York is host­ing the first vir­tual-re­al­ity “ex­pe­ri­ence cen­ter” this sum­mer for the 70,000 trav­el­ers who tra­verse Ter­mi­nal 4 each day.

The goal is a deep de­sire among fiercely com­pet­i­tive air­ports to of­fer har­ried trav­el­ers some­thing dif­fer­ent when the TSA sets them free.

In a world of end­less McDon­ald’s out­lets and mag­a­zine racks, game lounges may very well stand out. For air­ports, the period when a pas­sen­ger is wait­ing to board, “dwell time” in in­dus­try lingo, is a prime selling op­por­tu­nity.

Beer, burg­ers and duty-free are stal­warts of the trade, but a chance to mar­ket an ex­pe­ri­ence to the anx­ious, weary masses is rapidly gain­ing crit­i­cal mass. And when it comes to video games, there are ea­ger play­ers across Gen­er­a­tion Z, mil­len­ni­als and even Gen­er­a­tion X.

“I think peo­ple are des­per­ate for en­ter­tain­ment-they run to­ward us,” said Lynn Rosen­thal, chief ex­ec­u­tive of PeriscapeVR, the startup that de­signed the “im­mer­sive en­ter­tain­ment” vir­tual re­al­ity in­stal­la­tion at JFK. “You’ve got a bunch of stressed-out, bored peo­ple look­ing for some­thing to do be­sides eat or drink.”

The Los Angeles-based com­pany has fielded more than 300 calls from in­ter­ested air­ports, she said. PeriscapeVR charges $10 for 10 min­utes with a video head­set and of­fers dis­counts for longer blocks of time. A full hour

costs $35.

At Dal­las-Fort Worth, gamers have a refuge in both Ter­mi­nals B and Ter­mi­nal E, where a Port­land, Ore­gon-based com­pany called Game­way is of­fer­ing an amenity more com­mon at air­ports in Asia and Europe. These gam­ing sta­tions in­clude a leather chair, 43-inch TV and noise-can­cel­ing head­phones.

“We’re al­ways look­ing for ways to sur­prise our cus­tomers,” said Cyn­thia Vega, a spokes­woman for the air­port.

Game­way plans to in­stall Sony PlayStation ma­chines to com­ple­ment the Xbox. Prices range from $10.99 for 30 min­utes to $44.99 for an un­lim­ited ses­sion; the av­er­age cus­tomer spends $19.99 for an hour of play, said Jor­dan Wal­bridge, who founded Game­way with his wife, Emma.

The En­ter­tain­ment Soft­ware As­so­ci­a­tion, an in­dus­try trade group, claims 60 per­cent of Amer­i­cans play video games daily. With those kinds of num­bers, set­ting up air­port video game lounges seems like a no-brainer for fill­ing air­port cof­fers.

As for who is play­ing, EA said the av­er­age video gamer is 34 (an older mil­len­nial) and al­most evenly split be­tween gen­ders. Some 45 per­cent of U.S. gamers are women, with the av­er­age fe­male player be­ing 36, ac­cord­ing to the trade group.

“When­ever a plane has any kind of de­lay, we get filled up re­ally quickly,” Wal­bridge said.

Video games aren’t the only novel mode of your­plane-is-de­layed dis­trac­tion. In three other U.S. air­line hubs — Min­neapo­lis, Port­land, Ore­gon, and San Fran­cisco — you can watch short films while wait­ing; Port­land even in­stalled a high­tech cin­ema.

“Art is an in­te­gral part of the pas­sen­ger ex­pe­ri­ence, to give peo­ple a sense of place, a sense of calm as they’re go­ing through kind of an other­wise stress­ful ex­pe­ri­ence,” Wal­ter March­banks, an ex­ec­u­tive with Port­land In­ter­na­tional Air­port, says in a video de­tail­ing the project.

Other air­ports, in­clud­ing those in In­di­anapo­lis and Long Beach, Calif., are link­ing phys­i­cal ex­er­cise with phone charg­ing through kiosks built by a Flem­ish com­pany, WeWatt.

They use the ar­chi­tec­ture of a sta­tion­ary bike to gen­er­ate elec­tric­ity with the sit­ter’s ped­al­ing.

So at least you’ll be mul­ti­task­ing while you wait.

GAME­WAY

A gam­ing lounge at Dal­las-Fort Worth in­cludes leather chairs, 43-inch TVs and noise-can­cel­ing head­phones.

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