Immersive experiences have become big  business in Las Vegas

There’s no shortage of entertainment options in Las Vegas—it is, after all, known as the “Entertainment Capital of the World.”

One form of entertainment seems to be gaining traction among tourists and locals. Immersive entertainment has swept across the Las Vegas Valley in recent years—taking the form of floor-to-ceiling projections at Lighthouse ArtSpace Las Vegas inside the Shops at Crystals, a wide array of virtual reality experiences and Meow Wolf’s Omega Mart inside Area15.

“The hallmark of great experiential and immersive entertainment, and what sets it apart from traditional entertainment, is that you can engage with it,” said Dan Pelson, chief operating officer at Area15. “We talk about moving all of our guests from spectators to participants—you’re part of it. It’s personal to you.”

The immersive entertainment sphere is reminiscent of the earliest forms of the internet, in that there’s a great deal of investment, focus and energy being funneled toward it, Pelson said, and various companies are seeking to take advantage of that momentum.

He added that many startups in immersive entertainment don’t last long. In order to make it in experiential entertainment, one must constantly innovate and add new spaces, Pelson said.

“And that’s where the excitement really lies with experiential and immersive, because there’s a lot of mediocrity out there; there just is,” Pelson said. “And it’s not all going to work just because you call it immersive. It really has to be not only mind-blowing, but it has to really work from a business perspective.”

Virtual-reality has also seen significant growth.

Sandbox VR, which boasts a variety of immersive and full-body virtual reality experiences, recently opened at the Miracle Mile Shops, the San Francisco-based company’s second location in Las Vegas—following its success at the Grand Canal Shoppes—and 43rd location overall.

Nicole Dixon, senior VP of global marketing at the Sandbox VR, said the company functions at the intersection of technology and entertainment, and has grown at an “incredible clip.”

Las Vegas’ uniquely high level of visitors are increasingly looking for things to do in the entertainment capital beyond just traditional gaming experiences, Dixon said, as evidenced by the proliferation of sports franchises and other alternatives to gambling, betting and such.

“We’re really seizing that momentum and capitalizing on it,” Dixon said. “Our occupancy rates in our first location were among the strongest in our portfolio, so the demand was very high there. So we wanted to make sure that we could really serve all of the individuals who might want to experience our product.”

When virtual reality experiences are done well, they differ from traditional forms of entertainment—like going to the movies— in that they aren’t so passive, Dixon said. In an immersive atmosphere, people can interact with content in a way that’s “thrilling,” she said, and that makes them feel like “anything is possible.”

Entertainment venues like Sandbox VR also allow people to come together socially, to physically interact with one another and to engage in gaming experiences together, Dixon said.

Pelson echoed Dixon’s sentiment, noting that the world of traditional entertainment experiences is changing dramatically, and the priority for most consumers right now is experiences that are authentic, that tell a story and that are engaging.

“That’s what makes it special in our opinion,” Pelson said. “That’s what makes it much more meaningful and creates much greater memories.”

In the past, people would gather in areas like shopping malls to socialize or connect with one another, Pelson said, but that’s not really the first choice of younger generations.

The goal when creating Area15—which opened nearly three years ago—was to create a physical destination with digital components that would drive people to connect, whether it be with art, culture, media, entertainment or, ultimately, one another.

The venue, with a slew of entertainment options ranging from ax-throwing to art installations, has already seen millions of visitors in its short lifetime, making Las Vegas an epicenter of immersive entertainment.

Next on Area15’s horizon is a 20-acre expansion of its entertainment district, anchored by a year-round, immersive horror experience from Universal Parks and Resorts.

This story appeared in Las Vegas Weekly.

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Mike McNamara

Mike McNamara

A Las Vegas Realtor since 2008. Mike has a wide range of knowledge around all things Las Vegas.

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