Analysis of the Latest Industry Trends and Events

By Scott Borowsky and Frank Seninsky

We both really liked the Amusement Expo 2016

Seminars were well attended.  Perhaps Aristotle’s view on education has hit home:  ‘Educated men are as much superior to uneducated men as the living are to the dead.’ That pretty much says it all!

Industry is on an upswing. There were many happy exhibitors and buyers at the March 15-17- 1 Day of Seminars/2 Days of Expo. Our take was 300 people (including some exhibitors but not many as most were busy setting up their booths) attended the Expo Education Day’s 10 AMOA/AAMA seminars plus another 70 took part in the 15 educational sessions at the Laser Tag Convention Seminar Day. Both educational programs were held all day on March 15th, including a combined networking lunch.  If you consider that there were 1350 buyers, then that means that 1/4 or actually 27% of the buyers attended the seminars. That is far higher a percentage than in the past so one could logically say that more attendees are interested in learning more about industry trends and how to be more successful.  Kudos to AMOA/AAMA Education Committee Co-chairs Emily Dunn (Tom’s Amusements; Todd Louthian (Bay-Tek Games) and Erik Guthrie of the Laser Tag Museum (Zone Laser Tag) for putting together a very special educational day. [Note that the Joint Expo Education Committee consists of 35 members.]

The industry loves to complain that attendance at Amusement Expo is 1/10th that of IAAPA but we still need both Expos.  They each serve the industry well.  Note that several top factory CEOs were missed as they were attending either Transworld’s Haunted Attractions Show in St Louis (a mini IAAPA with a Halloween twist) or the IAAPA Asian show that were both taking place at the same time as Amusement Expo.

Family Entertainment Center Environment Took Center Stage

The AAMA is focused on the FEC industry.  The AAMA Family Entertainment Center Committee (close to 30 members) released its new brochure (below). Manufacturers report that most of their game sales are in the FEC category.  It is evident that manufacturers are making their games wider, deeper, and taller because that is what the FEC buyers want and bigger means higher profit margins for manufacturers and also for FEC owners and game operators who place these games in FECs.  The laser tag manufacturers/suppliers are also focused on making their laser tag attraction the primary FEC attraction, as the stand-a-lone laser tag category has peaked at just over 100 facilities.

On the other hand, the AMOA amusement operators are desiring small footprint games that have a decent return on investment.  In addition, AMOA as an association clearly sees that ‘marketing’ their locations as a whole should be a primary focus of a route operator.  Check out the voting that took place at the 2016 AMOA State Council Meeting January 28-30 (San Antonio, TX), where ‘Marketing’ came out the #1 AMOA priority by a wide margin.

A Change in Direction? 

Years ago, both AMOA and AAMA were in agreement that they did not want the industry trade magazines targeted directly to locations. Slowly over the years all of the top industry trade magazines began increasing their FEC subscribers. We both believe that this is a very positive direction for the industry.  The more our games and services are marketed to locations and to the general public, the more exposure our industry gets and the more people will want to play our games. AAMA is now embracing the FEC market from several fronts. AMOA is encouraging more of its members to attend Foundations Entertainment University (discounts apply).  The AMOA Rhodes Scholar Educational Program is scheduled to be located in Phoenix, Ariz., on October 21-23 following Foundations University Phoenix on October 18-20.   All of these association initiatives are leading our industry in a positive direction.

Busy people were doing business.  The first day was fantastic.  Old timers were not sitting around and complaining (that is just something that they seem to enjoy doing even when they are making money). Everyone is positive but many now understand that it is time to raise the bar and change is necessary.  A majority of the attendees have woken up and realize they are in the media and marketing business, just like every other business has concluded.  It is about time our industry and its associations are being proactive!

Lots of new technologies.  AMOA had 40 entries for their Innovator Awards. I (Frank) independently reviewed the 16 finalists and enjoyed every second of it.  The winners were Rocket Amusements for ‘Crazy Claw’, a video-redemption game that simulates a crane where the bubble prizes sizes, pictures, and values are operator changeable; Apple Industries who has turned their photo booth into an internet-based prize fulfillment machine (the marketing and profit centers are infinite); and PayRange who received 2 separate awards for its new features for amusement games that include what they call ‘Dynamic Pricing’ and its BluKey (dongle) smart cashless technology.  Kudos to AMOA Director Russ Minter, Stick With Us Amusements (Elko, Nev.), who chaired this year’s program

Having an Amusement Expo with so many new technologies on display and to focus on and for buyers to intimately discuss with the manufacturers how to improve these technologies to better serve the industry is really what the Expo is all about.  Tourist Attractions & Parks and The Redemption & FEC Report will be reporting on some of the other new technologies as our industry cannot afford to overlook new ideas and embrace them.  I (Frank) was very impressed with new products being offered by S&B Candy, UNIS, I Play USA, Valley-Dynamo, Shelti, Sacoa, Embed, Touch Tunes, Incredible Technologies, Barron Games, Family Fun, Delta Strike, Andamiro (really liked Baseball Pro), Delta Strike, and the list goes on.

The above also shows a trend that videmption kiddie rides are a category to be reckoned with.  Several companies showed interactive kiddie rides that are earning some serious revenues such as Family Fun, Barron, IPGM, and others.  ‘Crazy Claw’ leads the way for a new videmption category for merchandise games.  This is surely a growth category for both FEC and street operators.  Bring it on! ∝

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