Virtual reality is still in its infancy. But the people of China have taken an instant liking to it. Up until a few months ago, VR was limited to a few hardcore gamers in the West – but Chinese manufacturers and entrepreneurs are quickly surpassing the USA and other countries in bringing the VR experience to people. The Chinese people’s demand for VR is definitely on par (if not surpassing) with US markets. According to Greenlight Insights, analysts expect the market share for VR in China to rise to about $8.5 billion by 2020.

As of this month, you can find about 179 VR Kiosks, almost 600 VR cafés and at least 25 VR Arcades within various regions of China. These establishments are popping up everywhere around the country to compensate for the demand from China’s booming middle class, who are very excited about VR but can’t afford the pricey, higher-end products. These virtual reality establishments usually bill per the hour – some asking as much as much as 100RMB for half an hour – which translates to about $15.

It’s not just the geeks that are taking to VR in China

The novelty isn’t lost upon the non-gaming community either. People from all walks of life are visiting these places to try out the many types of VR experiences already available. One of the most popular VR designs are called the ‘Eggshell VR Motion Pod’ – it’s basically just an eggshell-shaped chair with two joysticks on each side that’s connected to a VR device. But Chinese entrepreneurs aren’t only focusing their efforts on gaming – they are talking about a karaoke bar equivalent in VR in the near future; VR shopping centres, the implications of VR in the medical industry and in education. The Chinese (for those who have been living underground and so don’t know) place a high value on education and are willing to shell out the big bucks when it comes to schooling their children. And entrepreneurs are planning to take full advantage of this – with plans to introduce multiple VR platforms to schools and for private study.

China’s VR manufacturing industry is booming

China, as industriously charming as ever, also have a multitude of 3rd party designs being manufactured for those looking for cheaper products. Some of these products include; the AntVR, the DK2 and the Deepoon E2. These VR devices mostly fall under the $300 mark, but obviously aren’t up to the standards of their more branded Western counterparts like the Oculus Rift. That being said, they are on par with some of the cheaper devices like Google Cardboard or Gear VR.

Low-end VR products (simple phone-case-like devices that can be strapped to a phone) are available for as little as $10 at some retailers and are selling like sweetcakes – as much as a 1000 headsets a day at some retailers. These are the same retailers you would normally see hawking phone cases and chargers. Both the Low-end and high-end VR products are Highly popular in China right now. High-end VR products are the type of devices that get plugged into a PC. They aren’t selling as well in the retail space as the low-end mobile devices – but that’s where the VR cafés and arcades come in. People are streaming to these places in order to have a higher-end VR experience. These devices include those mentioned earlier, like the Deepon E2.

Of course, it’s not just Chinese manufacturers that are displaying an interest in China’s VR market – big leagues like HTC have also gotten a foothold in the rapidly growing market. It’s anyone’s guess as to how long this Arcade trend will last – maybe until the devices become cheap enough for the middle-class Chinese to buy their own, or before the market becomes too saturated. But at the moment VR Arcades are a big success, earning one young entrepreneur as much as 50 000 RMB a month – that’s about $7400. And considering the person is only renting out the arcade space for about 15 000 RMB a month – that’s a lot.

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