Video Games Are Airports’ Latest Money-Making Scheme

Aug 30, 2018

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Airports across the US want your money. And they’re going to more and more creative lengths to get you to open your wallet.

First it was installing “smart glass” to get passengers to spend more at restaurants. Now, in a new bid to increase “dwell time” — or how long passengers spend lingering in airport terminals, shops, bars and restaurants killing time and spending money before a flight — airports across the US are turning to video games and virtual reality. So far this summer, game lounges have popped up at Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW) and New York’s JFK.

JFK’s Terminal 4 got a new virtual reality experience center with 12 different stations and headsets that feature both games and immersive virtual experiences. The tech firm behind the venture, PeriscapeVR, says that 750 people visit the VR stations at JFK per day.

Dallas offers flyers with time to kill two Xbox lounges by Gameway, one at Gate 32 in Terminal B and another at Gate 16 in Terminal E. There are 22 gaming stations at the Terminal E location and 14 at the one in Terminal B. Each is connected to an Xbox One that has 19 popular games for every type of gamer. The array includes shooting games, action games, sports games, kids games and fighting games.

But, PeriscapeVR says the airport gaming trend is just starting to heat up: they’ve received 300 calls from other airports to ask about installing the virtual reality tech.

“We’re always looking for ways to surprise our customers,” a spokeswoman for DFW told Bloomberg.

“I travel frequently and like most travelers, get stressed and bored,” PeriscapeVR founder and CEO Lynn Rosenthal told GamesBeat. “At airports, people can have three to four hours of dwell time. There’s not much to do. There were many times I wanted to escape into VR. Who doesn’t love being underwater with a whale, stunning jellyfish and sea anemones in TheBlu or the thrill of playing Beat Saber?”

The market for video games at the airport is supposedly diverse, too. “With 50 percent of Americans playing video games at least three hours per week or more, and the average gamer being a male who’s 35 and a female in their mid 40s, this demographic perfectly aligns with who is traveling at the airport,” Gameway Co-Founder Jordan Walbridge told Dallas Business Journal.

And, there’s major money behind the video game venture. Gameway charges $0.42 per minute of play or $20 for unlimited play. PeriscapeVR charges $10 for 10 minutes with a video headset, according to Bloomberg, or $35 for an hour (they also offer discount rates for larger blocks of time). That is steady income, especially for airports struggling to make a profit.

Ever since the advent of ride-hailing companies like Uber and Lyft, US airports have missed out on an old standby for cashflow: parking. Traditionally, parking made up about 40% of airport revenue, and Uber and Lyft have taken a significant bite out of that.

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