By Scott Borowsky and Frank Seninsky
Our June entertainment center theme issue marks both the almost halfway point for 2016 and ends with Bowl Expo, a very important trade show. We Buzzz Boyz have previously summarized the industry trends that stood out at IAAPA and Amusement Expo in detail. I (Frank) have just returned from a two-week trip to Hong Kong, Taipei, Taiwan, Guangzhou, Panyu District, Zhongshan, and neighboring malls, visiting game factories, the GTI Asian Expo 2016 in Taipei, and various FECs and attractions. I was fortunate to have seen several interesting prototype games and many new technologies, and can say emphatically that the industry’s future is taking shape and that our industry does, indeed, have a positive future.
First, we want to congratulate AMOA for the great job they did with the AMOA Innovator Awards at Amusement Expo. We have each spoken independently with many of the entrants as well as the winners. Unanimously, they agreed that the voting was done by a committee of highly technology savvy impartial game operators, was fair, and industry politics did not play a role. That speaks volumes in itself and serves to motivate even more creativity.
One of the trends that we predicted a few years ago was that ‘videmption’ would take center stage and be a huge amusement game category growth sector. When ‘Harpoon Lagoon’, ‘Pirates Hook’, and ‘Fishbowl Frenzy’ hit the market, it was evident that more great titles would follow and they did. I (Frank) also predicted that a new video-merchandiser category would immerge and also take off. We played around with some names for this category, like ‘vidcrane’, ‘vidprize’ and some we would rather not mention. Someone will come up with a great category name, but our point here is that ‘Crazy Claw’ (Rocket Amusements), won an AMOA Innovator Award with a fantastic video-crane. This game will be taken through the testing process and will be reported in ‘The Redemption & FEC Report’. Our guess is that we will see several more iterations of a vid-crane, and surely one with a smaller footprint for street game operators.
While we are on that topic, we see a great opportunity for manufacturers to go back to producing some smaller footprint games, with smaller prices, that game operators can use.
Positive Industry Trends Continue
The upbeat attitude that started at IAAPA 2015 has continued through June 2016. There has been and continues to be a greater interest in games as is evidenced with more advertising in this June issue. In our sister magazine, Souvenir Gifts & Novelties, our merchandise advertisers are reporting that their customers are placing reorders much sooner in the year than in the recent past. This is a solid industry indicator that the tourist destination amusement marketplace is having a nice six-month revenue increase over last year. One of the reasons is that even though people continue the trend of staying in their home regions and international travel has seen a decrease, they still are going to tourist destinations and purchasing souvenir products.
Participatory play attractions such as laser tag, trampolines, and ropes courses continue to be among the leaders. Newcomer experiences are expanding such as wind tunnels, escape rooms, and ninja warrior courses. For the past seven years (2009-2015) new/expanded FECs averaged about 50 a year or one per week. So far in 2016 that pace has increased about six-fold to 300 per year or almost six per week. That makes our out-of-home entertainment industry the 3rd fastest growth industry in the U.S., even though we are far behind the health care and pharmaceutical sectors.
Bowl Expo Las Vegas will beat the attendance point spread because it is having Payton Manning as its keynote speaker. Who could have confidently predicted that Payton and the Broncos would be Super Bowl Champions and a few months later many in our industry would get to hear him speak at Bowl Expo and perhaps even get to meet him? Just another reason to not miss Bowl Expo 2016.
IATP in September
After Bowl Expo comes the International Association of Trampoline Parks (IATP) in Nashville, Tenn. Taking the September time slot that was vacated by AMOA is a coup. Trampoline parks are currently expanding internationally now that there are more than 500 in the U.S. Many are now adding food, games, and small footprint FEC attractions, as we predicted would start to happen as they completed their initial 5-year cycle.
GTI Asian Expo 2016 Taipei, Taiwan
Frank attended this show for the first time. GTI was once a very large show, but recently many of the game factories have moved to mainland China and settled in the large cities of Guangzhou and Zhongshan. Even so, GTI was a great opportunity to meet with dozens of factory owners and representatives and learn how entertainment centers are growing at a fast pace in China. With 1.4 billion people and, as they say, “six wallets to support each child,” there is a lot of “yuan*” being spent on children. Note that the “six wallets” include four grandparents and two parents living under the same roof. Now that the new law permits two children per family, there will be six wallets supporting two children and our feeling is that the money spent on the kids will be twice as much as was spent when there was only one kid.
* “Renminbi” is the official name of the currency introduced by the Communist People’s Republic of China at the time of its founding in 1949. The literal translation means “the people’s currency.” “Yuan” is the name of a unit of the renminbi currency.
Guangdong Game & Amusement Culture Industry City is A-Buzzz
Frank was fortunate to visit the new 300,000-square-meter technology center that will house more than 120 of China’s leading manufacturing companies. This $2 billion project was put together by two of the leading game manufacturing companies in China, UNIS (Universal Space) and Golden Dragon. The CPC Central Committee of China is supporting the project with loans with the goal of each of the companies helping to develop new technologies in six Platforms: Games & Amusement Testing, Games & Amusement Investment & Financing, Games & Amusement Industry University Research, Public Technology, Intellectual Technology, and Educational & Training. This is a great opportunity for our industry’s future. The new center reminds me of the laboratory facility that Thomas Edison built in Menlo Park, N.J. to attract the leading scientific and engineering talent. And we all know how that turned out.
Enjoy the issue and as always…keep cranking!