Virtual Land, in West Edmonton Mall, is being billed as North America’s largest virtual reality theme park.
And Amir Husain, who is operating the concept, said plans are to expand to five cities in Canada in the next two years including Vancouver, Toronto, Calgary, Montreal and Ottawa.
“I have travelled the world looking for the best virtual reality gaming. The three top centres of virtual reality are Japan, Korea and Taiwan . . .This store is a franchise from the main head office in Taiwan and Pakistan,” he said.
“Basically it’s a mix of virtual and augmented reality.”
Virtual Land features more than a dozen unique virtual reality experiences with the ability of having multiple people in a room playing together, trying to solve a mission, a puzzle or a game, working as a team.
Virtual Land has taken over the old Brick space in WEM – almost 32,000 square feet.
From survival zombie themes to racing, PVP experiences and plenty of family friendly features, Husain said Virtual Land will offer something for everyone.
“The franchise is in 21 locations around the world but they have never stepped into North America. I wanted to be the first one to bring it to North America. It started with a search of the biggest malls in North America. I connected with the people at the West Edmonton Mall. I came with a PowerPoint presentation for them to see how I plan to expand this location and make it North America’s largest virtual arcade, which will include over 20 different virtual reality experiences which is really unique in the world,” he said.
“I keep saying virtual reality but we have managed to build in an escape room and a haunted house. Everybody who is coming in will have to go through a haunted house, solve an escape room puzzle to get hold of the guns before they can actually start using those guns in the actual games.
“We are trying to get a mix between not just the virtual but the physical world as well where anybody comes in, gets their mission statement, gets their training, and then they go into a haunted house where they have this escape room puzzle to get hold of the guns.”
As people walk through the maze, there will be live actors trying to scare them. At the end of the maze, people are briefed about their mission and then they can go and experience a game.
“We are a gaming company. All our experiences are actual games,” said Husain. “It’s an experience but we are a gaming company. All of the games are actually games where people can get out and that will give them a sense of accomplishment. So we want them to come back and try it again. And try better.
“So it’s not an experience where you come and look at stuff and it’s wow this is virtual reality. It’s a gaming company.”
Mall super-fan Matthew Dutczak of the Best Edmonton Mall fan site on a YouTube post said Virtual Land “promises to be North America’s largest virtual reality theme park.”
“The space it takes up and much of the former two storey furniture store is huge and this part of the mall was completely gutted and reconfigured just to make room for this experience,” he said.
“Virtual Land intends to blur the lines between an amusement park and an arcade by featuring over a dozen different virtual reality experiences . . . They have more than enough to satisfy the gun loving gamer in you.
“It’s not always as simple as just strapping on a VR headset and going in. Virtual Land is building a completely atmospheric experience. Before you come face to face with zombies, mad men, or possessed demons, you might find yourself navigating a maze-like haunted house or trying to unlock the path forward in a mini escape room.”