By Jen Heller Meservey
Laser Flash in Carmel, Ind., boasts the distinction of being “Indiana’s largest laser tag center.” The over 12,000-square-foot facility can accommodate up to 42 players per game of laser tag, and features seating for up to 90 in the party area, as well as 24 in the VIP conference center. Owner Peter Murphy said that while most guests don’t come to Laser Flash for the arcade, it’s still an important part of his business.
“Most people probably do not consider the arcade an attraction in that few people leave their homes just to go to an arcade,” he explained. “I occasionally see customers come in just to play arcade games, though it is rare. However, the arcade does provide a quarter of the total revenue for my laser tag center.”
Murphy said that the prize center can make or break an arcade. “The most important tip for increasing arcade revenue is a prize center,” he advised. “It must be well stocked with desirable prizes at a variety of price points. The prizes must be merchandised or displayed in an attractive fashion, and appeal to a variety of ages. The goal is to have customers eager to work towards collecting enough points to get a particular prize, and going back to play more to earn the prize that they have their eye on. If customers don’t use their points because there’s nothing they want, then your arcade will always under perform.”
Clint Hillard, games and IT manager at The Track Family Fun Parks in Branson, Mo., agreed. “Change out your redemption prizes often by bringing in new prizes at least monthly,” he suggested. “If you have several game rooms, make sure you have a variety of prizes at each location, which will motivate your guests to play your arcades at multiple locations.”
The Track features traditional laser tag in a black-lit maze, as well as a Laser Maze Challenge, which challenges guests to navigate through a web of lasers within a set time limit. The park’s three arcades feature over 250 different games.
“Having eye-catching and interactive arcade games on the property elevates the energy at our parks, and typically keeps our guests at the park longer, which generates additional revenue,” said Hillard. “We have a variety of games that appeal to the diverse interests of our guests… Additionally, having an arcade in the park allows guests to come in and cool off, or warm up, depending on the season, and enjoy games indoors.”
All-weather, indoor fun is also important at Adventure Sports in Hershey, Pa., which features outdoor laser tag on a three-acre field with uneven terrain. “The Arcade enhances and extends our guest experience, providing an indoor attraction that is not weather dependent in the Pennsylvania climate,” said Owner Greg Hill. “It provides a viable attraction during the rainy days in the summer and cold weather in the winter. …The arcade also provides entertainment while guests are waiting for laser tag. Birthday parties can be rescheduled to indoor arcade parties in the event of weather conditions that do not allow outdoor attractions to operate.”
Hill added that the arcade appeals to a range of age groups, as opposed to laser tag, which is more targeted toward younger guests. “The arcade has broad participation with a variety of games that are fun for people of all ages,” he said. “The redemption prizes are geared to children, parents and grandparents. The prizes range from the less expensive items for tourists to more expensive prize for the regulars who will spend time to earn the larger prizes.”
Having an indoor arcade is also essential on Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk in Santa Cruz, Calif., where two large arcades, The Casino Arcade and Neptune’s Kingdom, are open 365 days a year, rain or shine. Inside The Casino Arcade is a 3,500-square-foot laser tag arena complete with special lighting, sound effects, obstacles and fog.
“Arcades are very important for the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk because they are open daily year-round, regardless of weather or season,” said Craig Platt, games and arcades manager. “When our rides are closed on weekdays during the slower winter months, visitors can still play laser tag and the latest video and redemption games, as well as pool, air hockey, pinball, and even some classic video games, like PacMan and Centipede.”
The Boardwalk has employed several successful strategies to generate more interest in the arcades, according to Platt. “We switched from tokens to a rechargeable MyBoardwalk Card to make gameplay easier, and to reward more frequent play with extra points,” he said. “We remodeled our Redemption Center to create a better customer experience. We also have promotions, like half price Arcade Happy Hours, and free play hours for Season Pass members and corporate and youth group events.”
iPlay America in Freehold, N.J., features Cosmic Battle, a two-level 6,500-square-foot laser tag arena that can support up to 35 players at a time. Nicole Goldstein, general manager, said that iPlay’s arcade encourages guests to stick around. “It helps our business by allowing our guests another avenue to get inside the fun,” she explained. “The arcade helps increase the play time at iPlay America. With over 250 games in our arcade, there is always something to grab the attention of any guest, whether they’re four or 104!”
Goldstein said that she encourages more guests to visit the arcade by regularly mixing it up and adding new games. “Constantly change around the layout of the arcade,” she recommended. “This increases play time on games that may get buried in lower traffic areas, and keeps the experience for frequent patrons new and exciting… Keep the arcade fresh. Be on the forefront of new trends, and be open to bringing in new inventory of games to play.”
Thomas Erwin, co-owner of Kentucky Shores Family Fun Center in Gilbertsville, Ky., agreed. “We change our arcade layout at least one or two times per year,” he said. “When guests come in, they often comment on the new games. What they don’t realize is that there may very well be a new game, but more likely they just think that there are new games.”
The center features outdoor laser tag on three acres of old growth woods. Their equipment is designed to work at longer ranges, helping to maintain safety and enable greater teamwork among guests.
Erwin said that the arcade doubles as a ticket office for all of the Center’s attractions. “This gives our arcade staff the opportunity to interact with each guest,” he explained. “We spend a lot of effort finding just the right people for that first guest experience.”
This emphasis on guest experience is what sets Kentucky Shores’ arcade apart from others, according to Erwin. “Our staff understand that there is a lot of competition for our guests’ entertainment dollar,” he said. “We want our staff to develop new friendships, no matter what age they are dealing with. We have resisted automating prize redemption for that very reason. Our staff demonstrate the various prizes and interact with every guest who comes to the redemption counter. When our guests leave, we want them to have memories of how well they were treated. We want our staff to remember them every time they come back. Often, our guests are surprised by staff not only remembering their names, but something that might have happened the last time that they were there.”