It was in 2016 that the futuristic VR experience, Sandbox VR, first started to take shape. Inspired by the conceptual ‘Holodeck’ from Star Trek, Siqi Chen and his team embarked on creating a fully immersive, multiplayer experience where technology fades into the background and players are transported into another reality.

“Our goal was to create the minimum viable matrix,” Chen said, explaining the birth of Sandbox VR. It was a courageous move towards an unknown territory, yet the team held a strong conviction that their concept would be successful.

Siqi Chen, CEO of SandBox VR.
Siqi Chen, CEO of SandBox VR.

The First Venue and Initial Success

The journey began in Hong Kong, a densely populated city with challenging real estate conditions. Their first venue was located on the 16th floor of a rundown building, an unlikely place for a pioneering VR experience. Yet, despite these circumstances, they found an eager and enthusiastic customer base.

“Almost immediately, we started selling out days in advance, for what turned out to be 100 days in a row,” recalls Chen. “People would skip work or flights to play our experience.”

The Pandemic Setback and Recovery

Like many businesses, Sandbox VR’s journey was abruptly halted by the global pandemic. Revenue dropped drastically, and they found themselves refunding tickets to customers. But their belief in the product and the support from partners, investors, and lenders helped them weather the storm.

“In the end, we realized that as long as we could get past the pandemic, people would love Sandbox VR again,” Chen said, recounting their unwavering belief during the crisis.

Collaboration with Netflix and Unique Content Creation

Sandbox VR’s collaborations with major IP holders such as CBS and Netflix underpin its commitment to offering unique, immersive experiences. Their partnership with Netflix brought the widely popular ‘Squid Game’ into the virtual reality realm, offering fans an entirely new way to engage with the IP.

The Focus on VR as a Social Experience

One of Sandbox VR’s main differentiators is its focus on VR as a social experience. The platform’s meticulous attention to accurate motion capture allows for a highly interactive, communal experience.

“We wanted to create highly social, highly interactive experiences,” Chen emphasized. “When your friends are injured, you have to go up to them, put your hand on their shoulders, and save them. It’s about social interaction.”

Future Plans and Continued Growth

Looking forward, Sandbox VR aims to continue removing technological bottlenecks, developing more content in collaboration with major IPs, and expanding its footprint through a franchise model. They intend to push their growth globally, demonstrating a robust business model and offering compelling experiences for younger generations.

“We are spearheading that growth so we can create a truly global brand,” Chen concluded.

The Sandbox VR x Squid Game virtual-reality experience is expected to open in late 2023, marking yet another milestone in the company’s journey.