Earlier this year, virtual reality company The Void announced that it was partnering with ILMxLab to create a new VR adventure set in the Star Wars universe. Today, it revealed an early glimpse at what that experience will look like — and tickets are now on sale. In Star Wars: Secrets of the Empire, groups of four participants will assume the role of Rebels going undercover to infiltrate an Imperial base and steal critical intelligence. The first location, at Disney Springs in Orlando, Florida, will open on December 16th, while a second location will open in Southern California’s Downtown Disney shopping complex on January 5th, 2018. The 30-minute experience will be priced at $29.95, and tickets for both locations are currently available for purchase on The Void’s website.
The Void has become known for what it calls “hyper-reality” experiences. Essentially, the company combines VR headsets with a custom-built maze, haptic feedback, and physical props to give visitors the experience of actually visiting and interacting with an otherwise digital world. The company’s past projects have included The Curse of the Serpent’s Eye, in which visitors get to take part in an Indiana Jones-style adventure, and Ghostbusters: Dimensions, which suits up players as proton-pack-wearing ghost hunters straight out of the movie franchise.
Star Wars is without a doubt the biggest property to get the Void treatment, and the Disney partnership will almost certainly be the company’s biggest exposure to a mainstream audience. Not only is Star Wars an incredible draw, but Disney Springs and Downtown Disney are bustling locations unto themselves — both for standalone foot traffic, and for guests who are already visiting Disney’s Florida and California parks. And both of the new Void centers are opening just in time to capitalize on the tremendous interest in Rian Johnson’s upcoming Star Wars: The Last Jedi.
It’s part of an ongoing immersive strategy that Disney is stressing with the Star Wars franchise in particular. Star Wars: Secrets of the Empire will arguably serve as the first salvo, giving audiences the illusion of stepping into the world of the films. Then, with the company’s Star Wars expansion theme parks opening in 2019, fans will have the chance to do it in an actual, physical sense. That world, dubbed Galaxy’s Edge, will also feature interactive and immersive theater components. For example, the actions visitors take during its Millennium Falcon ride could potentially have an impact on the in-person interactions they have elsewhere in the park. Sometime thereafter, Disney is planning on opening a Star Wars-themed hotel that will allow guests to be the stars in their own multi-day narrative adventure that will stretch from their room to the park and back again.
Secrets of the Empire also has the opportunity to chart a path forward for the VR industry as well. With many developers admitting that the technology is still years, if not decades, away from achieving mass adoption, attention has increasingly turned toward location-based VR as the interim solution. The Void has already demonstrated the potential of its own particular flavor of immersive experience. Should the Star Wars partnership be a runaway success, it will only encourage more developers, and movie studios, to pursue a similar path.