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Bumper cars, VR games: Singapore's largest Timezone arcade opens at Orchard Xchange

Bumper cars, VR games: Singapore's largest Timezone arcade opens at Orchard Xchange
Groups of players can team up to play one of six games in a dedicated VR corner
PHOTO: The Straits Times

SINGAPORE - Arcade chain Timezone has opened its largest outlet here, occupying some 22,000 sq ft of retail space in underground shopping strip Orchard Xchange.

With some 160 activities, including bumper cars, bowling alleys and virtual reality (VR) gaming, the entertainment centre marks the latest tech-infused effort to rejuvenate the Orchard Road shopping district to better attract families and the Gen Z shopper.

The new outlet is the only one of 16 Timezone outlets to offer VR games after such consoles were shifted out of its Jurong Point branch. Among the VR booths are games from popular franchises like King Kong of Skull Island and Rayman spin-off Virtual Rabbids.

Groups of players can team up to play one of six games in a dedicated VR corner, where they can don VR headsets and prop weapons to tackle hoards of robots in sci-fi shooter Attek, or race their friends in hoverboard simulator WingRun.

At $6 million under a five-year lease, the arcade is the largest investment made by Timezone here, said general manager Nesh Selva.

"It is a bit of a risk, but in our experience an arcade can draw traffic, especially being next to Orchard MRT station, which is prime space and has one of the largest footfall along this stretch," he told The Straits Times at a media preview of the arcade last Thursday.

The centre also features a bumper car arena for up to six players, and two four-lane bowling alleys for up to five players each. Parties and group events can be held in function rooms within the outlet, which overlooks Orchard MRT station.

The arrival of Timezone - which is next to an electronics shop, fast-food chain and a 7-Eleven shop - brings Orchard Xchange back to full occupancy. The space is run by Stellar Lifestyle, SMRT's business arm, which oversees other retail malls near MRT stations, such as Esplanade and Dhoby Ghaut Xchange.

Orchard Xchange had struggled to attract visitors despite being sandwiched between Ion Orchard and the train station.

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Most walk straight into Ion Orchard from the station exit and do not pass through Orchard Xchange, said electronics shop owner Ben Eu, 55, who has worked there for three years.

"The footfall here is very bad. We rely mostly on regulars and those who book appointments," said Mr Eu, who sells used phones, electronics and accessories.

Many shops that operated here, including clothes shops, salons and cafes, had closed over the years, he added.

The arcade could give the area more personality as malls in Orchard need to set themselves apart, said retail expert Kapil R. Tuli, a marketing professor at the Singapore Management University.


"VR gaming in the arcade could help to draw crowds because it will offer visitors something that is not widely available at home and is less likely to be found elsewhere in Orchard," he added. "At the moment, VR tech at home is quite costly, and can be quite clunky and hard to play for long periods. So going to an arcade that offers a VR experience could be more appealing to consumers."

Other efforts to revitalise the Orchard Road shopping district with the help of technology include a VR snowboarding and skiing in a sports complex in Somerset that is set to open in 2023. The facility, Trifecta by The Ride Side, will also include an indoor surfing simulator and a skatepark.

Shoppers may also be familiar with the 3D digital billboard at The Heeren that displays animated advertisements with the illusion of three-dimensionality.

Since the departure of long-term tenant Robinsons in late 2020, the mall has been converted into a tech hub with the arrival of Courts, which has an e-sport gaming corner to host gaming events and a robotic vacuum experiential area for customers to test different brands of vacuum bots. Customers can also receive help from an augmented reality mascot to guide them through the store as introduce them to deals.

Plans for Orchard Road include a digital tool to provide information of events and places of interest around the shopping belt, as well as a guide to help attractions digitalise their services.

This article was first published in The Straits Times. Permission required for reproduction.

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