Shanda plans to make VR theme park a reality

Updated: 2016-02-03 08:23

By Gao Yuan(China Daily USA)

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Stocks of Chinese virtual reality firms surge as tech majors increase investment

Shanda Group is planning to build China's first virtual reality theme park where visitors will find themselves immersed in a digital world riding spaceships, dodging bullets and fighting dragons.

The Shanghai-based Shanda, which once operated a top online gaming platform in the country, also pledged $350 million investment in the VR sector, according to a company executive.

Shares in Chinese VR companies surged on Tuesday as Shanda and other tech majors increase investment.

Robert Chiu, president of Shanda, said the company is introducing The Void theme park to an undisclosed location in China. The Void is a United States-based entertainment company that specializes in VR technologies. Shanda said it is the sole investor of The Void besides its founder.

"We will build it (in China) as soon as we have a local partner," Chiu said. He added that the VR park gives players more realistic feeling than video games and the construction time will be significantly less than traditional theme parks such as the Disneyland.

At the park, gamers will be equipped with a VR helmet for video display, a pair of gloves to interact with the environment and a body vest that delivers haptic feedback, said the company.

The Void's first theme park, featuring science fiction battles with imaginary creatures and more, is scheduled to be opened this summer in Utah, and it is planning more facilities in markets such as Australia and Europe.

Shanda said it has moved its strategy from online gaming to the VR market. In mid-January, the company cut loose its flagship gaming subsidiary Shanda Games Ltd by selling off its shares.

Shanda plans to make VR theme park a reality

On Tuesday, a Dow Jones report said Alibaba Group Holding Ltd led $794 million funding for Magic Leap Inc, a US company that develops technologies that show three-dimensional images on real world objects.

An index that tracks stocks in China-listed VR companies jumped by 5.8 percent on Tuesday following the Shanda and Alibaba investments. Led by hardware makers, 17 out of 24 companies involved in the VR business saw their prices jump. Price of Hangzhou-based VR hardware maker Liaison Interactive Information Technology Co Ltd reached the 10-percent daily increase limit set by market regulator.

Tim Merel, founder and chief executive of industry research firm Digi-Capital, said revenue in the global VR market is on track to hit $30 billion by 2020, with the Asian market a key driver.

"There are significant concentrations of development in Asia, with the Chinese market in particular giving rise to many homegrown competitors," said Merel. "China is one of the most interesting markets, with many great innovators and entrepreneurs."

Last year, tech giants including Baidu Inc, LeEco Holdings Co Ltd and Tencent Holdings Co Ltd announced investments in the VR sector. The biggest focuses from the companies include hardware making and the production of VR video content.

 Shanda plans to make VR theme park a reality

Cosplayers at the stand of Shanda Group at an Internet culture and games expo in Beijing. Wu Changqing / For China Daily

(China Daily USA 02/03/2016 page13)