Defining the spectrum of immersive location-based entertainment experiences

Since the early 2010s, the proliferation of different location-based entertainments has made it difficult to develop a clear definition of the term “immersive LBE”. Despite the pre-eminence of a few market leaders, the rest of the industry is still very fragmented and largely consists of small players operating local escape rooms, light trails, arcades or immersive venues and temporary pop-up experiences (along with many other examples). However, we can get closer to one by considering the following common elements that commentators often include when they attempt to describe LBEs: 

Location-based entertainment (LBE) is about bringing people together, in real life, to share experiences.
– Venture Beat

LBE allows users to roam freely and physically interact with their environment, which may include real handheld props or tools. […] LBE lets users interact and share experiences with others in the same physical space.
– Forbes

LBE is simply any form of entertainment that’s tied to a particular location that’s not your home.
– Licensing Source

(LBE) market is filled with physical experiences – both licensed and brand-owned – from virtual reality cafés and pop-up stores to immersive cinema and theme parks.
– Licensing Global

Location-based entertainment (LBE) is also called “out-of-home entertainment” or “interactive multiplayer entertainment centers”. In any case, LBE is held to imply any kind of entertainment which is tied to a specific place outside your home.
– Teslasuit

The term location-based entertainment (LBE) is most generally used to describe any form of entertainment which takes place in a specific location outside of the user’s home – often in a Family Entertainment Center.
– Betson

These definitions usually include both traditional and immersive LBE concepts. However, there’s no definitive definition of immersive LBE. We have therefore drawn on previous descriptions to develop our own:

Any kind of entertainment which takes place in a dedicated location outside of the customer’s home and features a highly engaging experience that allows participants to submerge themselves in the content until they are fully absorbed by it. Ultimately, they experience a ‘flow’ state, which is one where their sense of time and self are lost, and their attention is completely focused on the current activity.

Any kind of entertainment which takes place in a dedicated location outside of the customer’s home and features a highly engaging experience that allows participants to submerge themselves in the content until they are fully absorbed by it. Ultimately, they experience a ‘flow’ state, which is one where their sense of time and self are lost, and their attention is completely focused on the current activity.

Most traditional forms of experience do not fit in the immersive category such as cinemas, casinos, traditional exhibitions, etc., from the ‘immersive’ category.

The spectrum of immersive LBE experiences

We can sub-categorize immersive LBE experiences using two axes, the participation axis and the technological axis. This categorization of immersive LBE offerings allows us to analyze market dynamics and understand the competitive landscape.

These different axes constitute a spectrum rather than a collection of discrete classifications. Experiences can range from exclusively contemplative to highly playful, and all points in between. They can also include technology to varying degrees, ranging from the entirely analog to the almost exclusively digital. A large entertainment complex or amusement park, for example, may offer experiences that occupy different positions on the spectrum.

2 axes_LBE_2

Technology

This axis categorizes each experience according to how much technology it includes and how advanced that technology is.

Participation

This axis categorizes each experience according to the way it involves participants. Contemplative activities rely more on observation while playful ones will feature greater participation and ask visitors to pursue objectives.

Technology

This axis categorizes each experience according to how much technology it includes and how advanced that technology is.

Participation

This axis categorizes each experience according to the way it involves participants. Contemplative activities rely more on observation while playful ones will feature greater participation and ask visitors to pursue objectives.

Despite the spectrum of possibilities, we can group concepts under these four main categories.

High-tech and contemplative
Definition

The technological component is an integral part of the experience and often uses cutting-edge techniques such as virtual or augmented reality and projection mapping.

These exhibitions and installations are mostly experiential. While spectators can interact with the experience, they have no direct impact on it and are mostly just observing the content.

Key concepts

Multimedia projections, Digital art experiences, Light trails and VR experiences

Low-tech and contemplative
Definition

In this category, technology is either absent or basic and it only contributes to the experience in a small way. Most concepts mainly involve the customer contemplating the content and taking pictures of themselves with it. This is why many such experiences in this category are often referred to as "Instagram Factories", but nevertheless, a few stand out thanks to creative propositions and some participant interaction.

Key concepts

Pop-up experiences, Art experience, Immersive theatre and Immersive cinema

High-tech and playful
Definition

Activities that use gamification and advanced technology to increase engagement and immersion.

Participants are at the heart of the experience and the objectives they are given directly influence the outcome. Since no two visits are the same, these activities encourage customers to return.

Key concepts

Virtual reality arcade games, Augmented reality games and Projection mapping games

Low-tech and playful
Definition

Game-like experiences where technology is not the central element. While it may be present, it is basic and only contributes to the overall concept in a small way.

Visitors become the heroes of the story, and they exert a tangible influence on the outcome.

Key concepts

Escape games and Immersive role play

High-tech and contemplative

Definition: The technological component is an integral part of the experience and often uses cutting-edge techniques such as virtual or augmented reality and projection mapping. These exhibitions and installations are mostly experiential. While spectators can interact with the experience, they have no direct impact on it and are mostly just observing the content.

Key concepts: Multimedia projections, Digital art experiences, Light trails and VR experiences

 
Low-tech and contemplative

Definition: In this category, technology is either absent or basic and it only contributes to the experience in a small way. Most concepts mainly involve the customer contemplating the content and taking pictures of themselves with it. This is why many such experiences in this category are often referred to as “Instagram Factories”, but nevertheless, a few stand out thanks to creative propositions and some participant interaction.

Key concepts: Pop-up experiences, Art experience, Immersive theatre and Immersive cinema

 
High-tech and playful

Definition: Activities that use gamification and advanced technology to increase engagement and immersion. Participants are at the heart of the experience and the objectives they are given directly influence the outcome. Since no two visits are the same, these activities encourage customers to return.

Key concepts: Virtual reality arcade games, Augmented reality games and Projection mapping games

 
Low-tech and playful

Definition: Game-like experiences where technology is not the central element. While it may be present, it is basic and only contributes to the overall concept in a small way. Visitors become the heroes of the story, and they exert a tangible influence on the outcome.

Key concepts: Escape games and Immersive role play

Understanding what customers value

Consumers are hungry for unique experiences that make them step out of their homes, learn, or stare in wonder. In order to be successful, owners and operators of immersive LBEs must develop a thorough understanding of their audiences and markets. Ambitious providers need to look beyond their own category and take inspiration from successful immersive LBEs in every category of the spectrum.

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