Electric Gamebox is aiming to become the next group entertainment evolution of the old-school video arcade or the clue-filled escape room.
And suburban Chicago game enthusiasts will soon be the first in the state to experience it, when the first Illinois location begins a soft opening at Oakbrook Center in Oak Brook on Saturday, Jan. 22, with an official opening event on Feb. 3.
Electric Gamebox has three locations in Texas, and a fifth will open in Utah by the end of the month.
“It’s a hyper-immersive game room and it’s interactive. Think of them as digital smart rooms,” said Nettie Davis, the vice president of operations for Electric Gamebox North America.
With Electric Gamebox, two to six players can play a variety of group games that feature a combination of digital technologies, including touch screens, projection mapping, 3-D motion tracking and surround sound.
Though players wear visors to aid with the motion-sensing technology, Davis stressed that they’re not as clunky or eye-covering as most virtual reality headsets.
“VR and console gaming are often very solitary,” Davis said. “Our concept is bringing people together to complete tasks and activities within the game and doing it in a very physical way. In our game rooms, you are the controller.”
According to Davis, Electric Gamebox play can last between 15 minutes to an hour. Prices begin around $10 for kids and $30 for adults.
Electric Gamebox originated in the U.K., which is reflected in two of its popular games titled “Rescue the Royals” and “Shaun the Sheep” (a spinoff of Aardman Animation’s “Wallace and Gromit” cartoons). Davis said the company has been pursuing licensing agreements to get more American properties into their games, especially as they expand globally.
Electric Gamebox is aiming to open up to 100 U.S. and U.K. locations over the next two years. By 2026, Davis said the company hopes to have more than 1,000 international locations.
Opening an Electric Gamebox location amid the COVID-19 omicron surge could be considered a risky bet. But Davis highlighted one potential safety factor: a family of game players.
“You’re entering into the box with the people that you came with, who are presumably within your ‘COVID bubble,'” Davis said. “So, I think it’s a great way to get out.”