It seemed like virtual reality (VR) on roller coasters was about to be the “next big thing” in the amusement industry. Many parks / chains figured they could breathe new life into older attractions with a VR update. So why are we seeing less and less of them all of a sudden?
Slow Operations / Long Lines
The first thing folks noticed about VR coasters was their wait times – and it wasn’t because they had become instantly more popular. Ride dispatches, even on small trains could average up to 10 minutes+ making ride capacities plummet and wait times soar.
Plus, in many cases, there wasn’t a separate line for non-VR seats. Guests would have to wait the exact same amount of time to NOT experience VR as they did if they wanted to.
The Experience Wasn’t Seamless
During my many experiences with VR coasters, the ride didn’t sync properly with the timing of the train or shut off completely, which led to queasy guests. Other times, the VR required people to do an action, like shoot space aliens – leaving their hands unable to brace themselves into corners and brakes.
Did it make the ride better?
But for me, the biggest downfall of virtual reality coasters is that they don’t make the coaster they go on any better. In fact, in the case of Ninja at Six Flags St. Louis, it made the ride WORSE. I couldn’t brace for the “transitions” and the ride ended up being very painful.
There’s Promise on the Horizon…
Where VR coasters appear to have failed, there seems increasing promise in VR drop towers. Parks with multiple towers or vehicles seem like they could benefit the most.
To me, these experiences are a vastly superior VR experience: smoother, one plane of travel and decreased forces, coupled with not slowing down the other towers or vehicles.
So, to sum up, the VR experience is a novel concept but it’s not quite ready for prime time, at least with it’s current implementation here in the United States. If parks can ultimately work out the capacity and reliability issues with the headsets, it might be a novel way to breathe new life into older rides.
Otherwise, virtual reality coasters should be relegated to an up-charge attraction that only runs certain times of the year or specific hours of the operating day.
* * *
What do you think? Do you enjoy VR on roller coasters, drop rides, or neither? Let me know in the comments below – and be sure to check us out on social media!
Remember when new rides and attractions opened with the start of the season at your local amusement or theme park? That’s certainly not the case this year.
A record number of attractions are still fighting to open up for the season, this as many parks pass the halfway point of their operational calendar.
And it’s not just one factor that’s throwing things off – it would appear the entire industry ran into a figurative “buzz saw” when it came to opening attractions on time this year. Here’s a list of attractions off the top of my head that have found themselves “behind the 8-ball” just this year:
Now, I say “behind the 8-ball” for this reason: parks advertise their newest product to get people excited to come back next year. But if you (or your group) came early in the season, you more than likely missed out on the new attraction completely (at least, this year).
Even professional park travelers like myself plan for and anticipate delays for new rides – but even we’ve been taken aback at rides opening beyond the Fourth of July – especially in seasonal parks closed in the winter.
So what’s behind all these rides having what I consider to be major delays in opening? Are they too extreme or complex? Or is it sometime much simpler? Let’s take a closer look:
This was the worst winter on record east of the Rocky Mountains. In many cases – construction couldn’t even start until the snow was moved and the ground thawed. Sadly, that didn’t happen until April in some places. (It was still icy in the Great Lakes in JUNE).
There are only so many pieces that can be built by these companies, some of which employ less than 50 employees. If a company waited to buy a product until late in the season, they’ll be at the end of the line, so to speak to receive their new products.
If you’ve ever played the game “RollerCoaster Tycoon” you know it’s quite easy to build new attractions. But if the game were to be truly accurate, players would have to spend more time in the local permits office than managing their park. The litany of paperwork and regulations ended up killing a famous water park here in California.
While most point to the Golden State as the epicenter of red tape (See Gold Striker’s struggles to finally open) the East Coast is now getting into the act.
After a brutal winter prevented construction for most of the off-season at Six Flags Great Adventure, Zumanjaro – a world record free fall in New Jersey, was finally ready to open for season pass previews after months of delays…
…only to be told by the State that their ride inspector would not be able to get out to the park to officially sign off on its operating permit. Whoops.
Design Flaws / Challenges:
Whether it’s too complex in terms of computer and electrical systems – or just a bad design to begin with – sometimes rides don’t transfer perfectly from the computer and drafting board to the real world. All parks (except the old Action Park) have guests’ safety as their number one priority – and if it means opening a ride late to ensure it does not hurt, maim or kill people – it’s a delay that’s always worth taking.
So will all of the rides and attractions open by the end of THIS season? Only time (and a host of other factors) will tell. One can only hope that parks can get “back on schedule” next year and start debuting rides when the season begins (or shortly thereafter).
What do you think? Are there any other factors I might have missed? LEave me a comment either below or on my social media channels – I’d love to hear what you think!