Battletech Centers are commercial virtual entertainment venues that feature multiplayer virtual combat in the BattleTech universe. The games are played in fully enclosed cockpits with multiple screens, joysticks, and rudder pedals. The centers were initially created and operated by Virtual World Entertainment, LLC. Today, the gaming cockpits can now be found in various sites around the United States.
The first BattleTech Center opened in Chicago in 1990, with others in Yokohama following in August 1992 and Tokyo in 1993. Eventually 26 such facilities were built and included other game types and more elaborate operations. These new locations were called 'Virtual World'. Each Virtual World site featured at least 16 networked 'pods' designed in part by Frog Design.By 1993, patrons could compete against players in other centers across the country. "Red Planet" was the first non-BattleTech game added, and involved racing through the mining tunnels of Mars using vectored thrust mining hover-crafts. However, rapid advances in arcade games and online games meant that the Japanese Centers began closing in 1995, and by 2000 no BattleTech Centers remained operational in Japan.
In 1996, Virtual World Entertainment and FASA Interactive merged and became wholly owned subsidiaries of Virtual World Entertainment Group (VWEG). In 1999, Microsoft Corporation purchased VWEG, sold VWE to a group headed by VWEG's former CFO, James Garbarini, and integrated FASA Interactive into the Microsoft Game Studios division. In 2005, all interest in VWE was sold to Nickolas 'PropWash' Smith and the principal offices were moved from Chicago to Kalamazoo, MI.
In November 2005, an independent operator of the Virtual World Tesla II cockpits, MechCorps Entertainment, LLC, in Houston, Texas, USA opened its doors to the public with eight Tesla II pods. They acquired another four pods in 2007, and hosted the 2007 National BattleTech Invitational in September 2007 with all twelve pods operational.
Virtual World Entertainment, MechCorps, and VGCorps decided to refit existing Tesla II pods and take the BattleTech Center experience on the road starting at GenCon in 2007. Gaming, Sci-Fi and Anime conventions (OwlCon, ChimaeraCon, Dragon-Con and MechaCon) in the south-central US were introduced to MechCorps' Mobile Armor Division while Virtual World Entertainment in association with MechJock LLC made appearances in the Mid-West at events including Gencon, Origins, Chicago Comi-Con, ACEN, CodCon and Youmacon.
In 2006, players in Japan purchased 4 Tesla pods from the US, and began to put together an 'unofficial' Virtual World Center in Tokyo. Despite many key components becoming 'LosTech' and their spare parts no longer available on market, the 4 pods are now semi-operational, though no commercial operation has resumed yet.
List of BattleTech centers
|Center Name||Location||Number and Type of Pods||Game(s) Available|
|The Airlock||Kirkland, Washington||8 Tesla II pods||BattleTech: Firestorm and Red Planet|
|Hinkle Family Fun Center||Albuquergue, New Mexico||6 Tesla II pods||BattleTech: Firestorm|
|MechCorps Entertainment LLC||Houston, Texas||16 Tesla II pods||BattleTech: Firestorm and Red Planet|
|Modesto Virtual||Modesto, California||8 Tesla II pods||BattleTech: Firestorm|
|Mr. Biggs Family Fun Center||Colorado Springs, Colorado||12 Tesla II pods|
|Mr. Biggs Family Fun Center||Littleton, Colorado||12 Tesla II pods||BattleTech: Firestorm|
|(Private) The Fallout Shelter||Twin Cities, MN||8 Tesla II pods||BattleTech: Firestorm|
|Sim Playground||Rolling Hills, California||8 Tesla II pods||BattleTech: Firestorm and Red Planet|
|(Private) Solaris Babylon||4 Tesla II pods||BattleTech: Firestorm|
|(Private) South Pasadena 3.0 Pod Bay||Pasadena, California||6 3.0 pods||BattleTech and Red Planet 3.x|
|Ultimate LAN Experience||Grand Rapids, Michigan||4 Tesla II pods||BattleTech: Firestorm|
|(Private) VGL Underground||Kalamazoo, Michigan||8 Tesla II & 4.10 pods||BattleTech: Firestorm, Red Planet, and BT / RP 4.11|
|XMax Games||Dallas, Texas|
|VGCorps LLC||Dallas, Texas||8 Tesla II pods||BattleTech: Firestorm and Red Planet|
|Denver, Colorado||10 Tesla II pods||BattleTech: Firestorm|
The 42 other cockpits in private hands not included in this list are currently known and tracked via the Virtual World Entertainment website.
- "BattleTech Center"
- "Virtual World Entertainment Tesla Sites"
- "Microsoft Acquires FASA Interactive"
- "Virtual World Entertainment Acquired by Nick Smith"
- "2007 BattleTech Invitational"
- "MechCorps Goes Mobile!"
- "Virtual World Entertainment sites"