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Virgin America Gaming: Not All That

Posted by: Matt Vella on April 22

Picture 001.jpgThe uber-slick, post-iPod experience of flying Virgin America is a winning one. I find myself tempted to not even comparison shop when flying home to California given how superior the experience is to comparably priced airlines. Deservedly, Virgin has won plaudits for everything from it’s hiply designed interiors to a streamlined check-in experience. Its media service, which allows passengers to do everything from order food or watch on-demand music videos, has also been widely praised.

However, not only is the media service still a little buggy and rough around the edges (I, for one, love seeing an airplane reboot Linux) but one of its major attractions – playing games – leaves a lot to be desired. What’s more, its uncharacteristically unhip. For an airline that “gets” cool and successfully curates relevant music and video content on routine, the gaming experience falls flat on its face.

Firstly, the selection of titles is worse than one of those dive bar, “conversation starting” game machines. Titles like Rocks’n’Diamonds, Circus Linux!, XMAHJONGG, and Vectoroids (seriously) are about as fun to play as they are to say. The splash screen of one of these, Gem Drop, proudly displays that it’s a version 0.9 software! Memo to Richard Branson: no-brand, stale Linux games do not a first rate experience make.

On the plus side, there’s the requisite DOOM port, which I’ll admit I played for a good half hour. There’s something deliciously mind-warping about playing a vintage first-person shooter at 50,000 feet. (Also, a little nauseating.) Better yet, the controller built into the arm rest is surprisingly responsive. Not only is the directional-pad malebale but the controller even has shoulder-mounted buttons that could support a wide variety of gameplay. I’m pretty confident that, should some decent software make its way onboard, Virgin’s built-in hardware could redefine airplane gaming. Here’s to hoping some upgrades are on the agenda.


Reader Comments

P Watras

April 22, 2008 04:55 PM

Gee, how about a grammar checker, in addition to some editing! "from it's hiply designed..." and "its uncharacteristically unhip".

It's means it is;
its is possessive.

I won't even go into the substance of the article. Cut the new guys on the block a little slack.


April 23, 2008 01:32 PM

I love Virgin America, and I fly them fairly frequently. Sitting at the gate before takeoff, I'm already building a music playlist, sampling new tunes, and even checking out the newest music videos. That said, this article hits the nail on the head... The game selection leaves a lot to be desired. It would be great if there were games that used the cabin's connectivity to go multi-player, even if only a basic trivia game to start. Some of the more popular casual games would be fun as well. There is so much possibility out there, and I hope we see some of it come to life sooner rather than later.


April 24, 2008 10:10 AM

You were flying at 50,000 feet? Please get your facts straight.


May 1, 2008 02:52 AM

It's mal*L*e*A*ble., not 'malebale'.

Alex, London

May 9, 2008 12:57 AM

VIRGIN is THE BEST airline in the US, period. Give Sir Branson some credit, next time take you PSP on southwest so you don't have to stare in the clouds for 5 hours.

Oh, Matt was at 50,000 ft on Virgin?? No wonder his grammar didn't work, air's pretty thin up there!

Somebody please move Matt to the mail room!

Thank you for your interest. This blog is no longer active.



No longer child's play, the booming global games market is worth billions of dollars. In Games, Inc., BusinessWeek Innovation writer Matt Vella and Tokyo correspondent Kenji Hall analyze emerging business trends in video games and interactive entertainment. They’ll examine everything from button-mashing, chart-topping, console games to serious games commissioned by big corporations to train staff. They’ll also map the evolution of expansive virtual worlds and go behind the strategies at companies that are turning play into big business.

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