Sandbox VR Goes to the Mall

With COVID restrictions easing around the USA, many brick-and-mortar businesses that shuttered during the height of the pandemic are now figuring out whether or not they can even remain viable. One CEO that thought COVID might ruin his pride and joy is Steve Zhao, founder of Sandbox VR. Reliant on in-person group experiences, Sandbox VR seemed like one of the most likely businesses to fall victim to COVID. Now, as “normalcy” returns, Zhao is making a push to bring Sandbox VR to malls across the US and the world.

Your Holodeck Away from Home

Players in Sandbox VR
Image: Sandbox VR

Calling the Sandbox VR experience “the closest thing to the ‘holodeck’ that exists,” Zhao’s team has created an immersive group gaming environment that makes a return to in-person activities highly appealing. After all, VR is still quite expensive to get going on your own. (Even the modest price of Oculus Quest 2 can be too much for some of the curious.) Putting hi-tech VR gear in reach of everyday consumers means even the most inexperienced gamer can leap into VR for a premium experience unavailable anywhere else.

UFL - Unbound Fighting League from Sandbox
Image: Sandbox VR






At its current locations (largely in major malls and shopping centers, in Austin, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco, Vancouver, Hong Kong, Macau, Shanghai, and Singapore), and its soon-to-open Las Vegas location, Sandbox VR provides a VR headset, backpack computer, and haptic-feedback vest to each participant then invites them to step into one of five original virtual experiences. From Unbound Fighting League’s endlessly customizable combatants and immersive one-on-one bouts to Star Trek: Discovery’s space-faring adventures and narrative thrust to the do-or-die zombie onslaught Deadwood Mansion, each experience offers more to the adult gamer than any youngsters but still can make for a great family introduction to VR.

Fight Your Friends

All of the five currently available Sandbox VR experiences are combat-based. Although the cartoonish Curse of Davy Jones is the most suitable for children, a minimum age requirement of 8 and the not insignificant violence, however fantastic, keeps Sandbox VR from being the truly family-friendly VR adventure that will bring virtual experiences to locations even more mainstream than malls. That said, more child-friendly tech will certainly aid that cause, and many expect VR education and entertainment to be commonplace for children within a decade. (That said, the compatibility of younger children with VR hardware also needs development.)

A Sandbox VR experience runs around $50 per person and can involve up to six people in each group. The 90-minute experience starts with training, setup, and orientation before a 30 minute active VR period and, afterward, the screening of highlights for players.

Sandbox VR Location in a mall
Image: Sandbox VR

In its own words, Sandbox VR “is building the holodeck and bringing one to every neighborhood,” with the aim to “expand human experience through immersive technology.” It’s also giving consumers an entertainment option far more novel than a trip to the cinema and a reason to get back out in public if only to sample VR at its finest.