How to Legally Operate a VR Arcade

So you are interested in jumping on the Virtual Reality train by opening an arcade/entertainment venue.  Where do you start?

The first thing to decide is what kind of Virtual Reality (VR) equipment you want to utilize.  There are three basic choices of accessible high-end consumer hardware available:  the Oculus Rift, the Playstation VR, and the HTC Vive.  While all can accomplish similar levels of VR experiences and games, unfortunately there is actually no choice here.  Currently, only the HTC Vive has a commercial option, the Vive Business Edition (BE).  Both of the other systems (and in fact, all current console systems) have End User License Agreements (EULAs) that explicitly exclude commercial use and often specifically prohibit renting or leasing. Additionally, some systems (such as the  non-commercial version of the Vive) will void your hardware warranty in the event of commercial use. The only other option is to obtain explicit permission directly from the manufacturer to use their products in a commercial setting.

In order to use the Vive (in the United States), unless you are programming your own VR middleware, you will need to use Valve’s Steam VR software. This may change once HTC’s Viveport Arcade is readily available here, but you can probably expect similar terms from them. Steam VR must be acquired from the Steam Store, as will most experiences and games you can legally use. Once again, the Steam Subscriber Agreement specifies that Steam is for personal use only.  You will need to join the Steam Site Licensing program, which is free, and provides access to a small amount of content including Valve’s excellent The Lab, in order to legally use Steam VR and other Steam acquired content.  Additional commercial licenses for software can then be purchased from a growing list available directly through Steam.  Be advised – commercial licenses are almost always significantly more expensive than a personal copy of the game.

There are two additional ways that you can provide content for your customers.  The first is to obtain explicit permission from the developer to use the software in a commercial environment (or, they must have a 3rd party EULA that clearly allows for commercial use). This will usually involve a contract and some form of payment to the developer.  Some developers even have easy to use web purchasing for commercial licensing of their products. But in most cases you will still be provided with a Steam key for delivery of your software.

Lastly, it is permissible for any visitor to your venue to sign in to their personal Steam account and play any game they have available, but of course this will probably require downloading of the software before first use.  This may be the only way for customers to  play some games, as some developers have not yet made their products available for commercial usage at all. Also of note is that even free games, experiences, and demos must abide by these rules, so unless they are commercially licensed, they can only be accessed on a customer’s personal Steam account.

Still, it is a great time to be a Virtual Reality entertainment provider, and hopefully this post can point you in the right direction to make your commercial endeavors legal, ethical, and successful!




Sony Playstation

Microsoft XBOX One

Nintendo WII u

Steam Subscriber Agreement

Steam Site Licensing Program


2 thoughts on “How to Legally Operate a VR Arcade

  1. Great post, Brian. We spoke briefly at the last KCVR Meetup, and having worked on a successful indie experience, the VR/AR community needs leaders like yourself to advocate for ethical business practices. Many of my most talented friends–whether animators, programmers, or filmmakers–have been forced out of the industry due to unfair practices such as those you cited. It’s disheartening to see artists taken advantage of when this new medium so desperately needs their influence. Thanks for sharing, I hope we can catch up soon.


  2. Awesome post! Running a VR Arcade is exciting and challenging, and as an industry, we all need to work together and follow some rules. Arcades that operate illegally, hurt the entire industry. We are fighting this problem head on by creating a full tracking and commercial licensing portal. We offer commercial access to dozens of top VR games with licensing that is affordable and scales with your arcade. The portal also has a full suite of features from a game chooser, in headset controls, and a full business portal where you can see what is going on in your arcade and what games are really performing. Learn more at:

    Hopefully having easier licensing of more content will help the market grow more rapidly and legally. 🙂


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