‘China’s Netflix’ iQiyi launches an immersive VR ride based on its own show

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Human players appear as avatars in iQiyi’s immersive Luoyang VR experience, which opened to the public in Shanghai in February 2023.
iQiyi

BEIJING — Chinese video streaming platform iQiyi announced Monday the opening of its immersive virtual reality experience in Shanghai.

The project combines immersive theater, virtual reality and physical equipment to give participants the impression that they are walking — or riding in boats and other vehicles — through a fantasy world complete with waterfalls, strong winds and explosions. Participants can also shoot virtual arrows at “enemies.”

While resembling a theme park ride, the virtual reality experience only takes up 300 square meters of space, according to the company. That’s roughly a square lot 17.32 meters (56.82 feet) long.

Baidu-backed iQiyi is sometimes dubbed China’s Netflix since the Chinese online video platform also sells TV series and movies to subscribers. Tencent Video, Alibaba-owned Youku and Bilibili operate the three other major video streaming platforms in China.

IQiyi calls its new product “a thrilling 50-minute VR-powered journey.” The experience is based on iQiyi’s 2021 television drama “Luoyang,” set in the ancient Chinese capital city of the same name.

Tickets cost 198 yuan ($29) to 398 yuan each, according to a Yelp-like entry on China’s DianPing app. Time slots are sold by the hour, running from 10:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. every day of the week, the site showed.

The experience is located in downtown Shanghai and is set to run through May 18, according to information on DianPing.

Zhang Hang, iQiyi vice president who heads the company’s Dreamverse studio behind the VR project, previously told reporters he expected the VR experience could see about 40,000 visitors a year per store.

At list ticket prices, that means iQiyi could make more than $1 million a year from its VR product. However, right now it’s not clear to what extent the experience will be available for the rest of this year.

Zhang cast the VR experience more as a movie than an interactive game. He said his team was working with the company’s content production team so that standards could also meet VR requirements.

IQiyi has said it uses artificial intelligence to help with content production. The company is set to report quarterly earnings on Wednesday.

In the third quarter ended Sept. 30, iQiyi said revenue fell 2% from a year ago to $1.1 billion. The company said the monthly average revenue per membership for the quarter was 13.90 yuan, up from 13.65 yuan a year ago.

A scene from iQiyi’s immersive VR experience that launched in Shanghai in February 2023.
iQiyi

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