Though we may be well in the midst of Dance Dance Revolution month here at Wilcox Arcade, I’m not gonna pass up some exciting news over it—especially since this exciting news just so happens to be a new arcade rhythm game. Enter: Beat Saber.
Currently available for the HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, and Windows MR headsets though Steam and the Oculus Store (with a PlayStation 4 release in development), Beat Saber is a VR rhythm game developed by Jan Ilasky, Vladmir Hrincar, and Jaroslav Beck of Hyperbolic Magnetism. Interestingly enough, players are tasked with slashing blocks in the specified direction and to the beat of the music using trademark-friendly, lightsaber-esque blades.
As exciting as the home versions already are, the news gets even bigger. On August 27th, Hyperbolic Magnetism revealed through the official Beat Saber Twitter page that they had partnered with SKonec Entertainment to bring players “the first Beat Saber Arcade Machine in the world!” In the same tweet, it was announced that interested parties could try this “whole new arcade experience” this September at KVRF in Korea and GTI Expo in China, with the note that more locations in Asia would be announced soon.
Specifics haven’t been announced yet, but it’s assumed that the gameplay will be largely identical, with the use of two tethered motion controllers and a Windows Mixed Reality VR HMD. The home version (which is listed on Steam as “Early Access”) features two game modes (Single and Party) and 10 songs. Both a song editor and multiplayer have both been announced but, as of this writing, have not yet been implemented.
Exclusive content is planned for the machine. As far as the North American arcade release is concerned, Beat Saber has this to say: “Stay tuned.”
The arcade cabinet itself is very flashy. The red and blue rectangular LED panels on either side of the monitor give off a strong Dance Dance Revolution X vibe, and the lighting as a whole certainly creates that futuristic aura. Dimensions haven’t been provided yet, but the cabinet looks decently space-conscious for an upright. Based on the draft render alone, the floor presence seems comparable to Mannequin Challenge from Touch Magix.
There’s not a hint of doubt in my mind that Beat Saber is an awesome game. Though I haven’t ever played it (I don’t have a VR headset!), the concept is beyond enticing. Sweaty weeaboo nerds like rhythm games…and sweaty regular nerds like lightsabers! Put ‘em together and—boom—printin’ gosh danged money. The arcade version serves not only to make the expensive virtual reality technology more accessible, but also to make the experience that much more visceral.
As much as like it, I have one concern: pricing. This, like Dance Dance Revolution, is the kind of game you play for hours at an arcade. That’s why each credit earns you anywhere from 6 to 10 minutes of gameplay and doesn’t typically exceed $1.00. The pricing is accommodating for longterm gameplay.
Beat Saber, however, isn’t presented on a standard monitor interface. This is a monitor AND a VR headset—and that doesn’t usually come cheap. Most virtual reality experiences require a paid attendant to watch over the game and can run anywhere from $5 to $30 per credit. Even attendant-free VR, like Virtual Rabbids: The Big Ride, is usually set at $5 per credit. So, the question remains: How will Hyperbolic Magnetism ensure a low price for dedicated players?
The most obvious choice is to craft an entirely self-service, attendant-free experience that provides pretty good value for the money (perhaps two songs per credit). But what if we took out the virtual reality?
Though it may sound a little crazy, the best cost-reduction strategy might very well be to remove the most important interface component. A non-VR version with just the monitor and motion controls could serve as a more cost-effective “standard edition” for arcades that aren’t ready to make that technological leap. I certainly agree with arcade YouTube personality Jdevy on Twitter: “They should offer Beat Saber in a non-VR format. I think that’d work well.”
Of course, that’s a bit of a pipe dream. Beat Saber is first and foremost a virtual reality experience, and that’s what makes it so incredibly enticing. But underneath the flashy interface, you’ve still got the motion-controlled, block-slashing core. Who’s to say that couldn’t work on a standard HD monitor? After all, I imagine that headset will get pretty sweaty….
Either way, I am absolutely stoked for the arcade version of Beat Saber. VR doesn’t usually get me too excited, but this is different. This is something actually novel, like Omni Arena from UNIS. It’s not some glorified motion simulator like Jurassic World VR Expedition or Virtual Rabbids. It’s got real gameplay—a real reason to exist. That is cool stuff.
Don’tcha just love arcade games?
Now go away.