By Scott Borowsky and Frank Seninsky
IAAPA – ‘I-Double A-P-A’ is the five-letter acronym that epitomizes everything good about our industry in the fourth Quarter 2018 and this year’s IAAPA exceeded everyone’s expectations! More attendees, more exhibitors, more new products/services, more new technologies, more networking—a year of ‘heaven on earth’ packed into six days. Here are some of our ‘Buzz’ take-a-ways:
- Virtual Reality (VR) is here to stay. There have been and will continue to be many false starts but the concept is ‘dug in.’ We counted and visited 61 VR exhibitors. Few will survive but the good news is that each one has a different angle and the product keeps getting better. To some degree, our industry will be a leader because we embrace new technology and know how to use it to attract and keep our guests excited. The general public now expects our FECs and venues to offer a VR experience. However, the big money in other industries will benefit more from VR than our industry. But having a piece of it is not a bad thing.
A good example is the new Virtuix Omniverse VR Arena with esports competitions. There were lines of attendees waiting to play and experience this 4-station attraction. Check out the Virtuix-Funovation IAAPA YouTube Interview by Frank with Jan Goetgeluk (CEO Virtuix) and Ryan Borton (CEO Funovation) – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vdEomrh4RCM&t=4s
- Lighting and sound technologies continue to go up a notch. Raising the bar of guest experience is a natural occurrence lately in our industry. IAAPA 2018 offered us the opportunity to seek out those companies that can help us raise the bar.
- More new games were shown than in previous years. The good news is that there were also games for the street – smaller footprints at smaller prices.
- Debit card companies wrote hundreds of new orders. Traction has started. We define traction as when a technology has penetrated 20% of the market and a rapid increase is expected in a short period of time.
- The Outside Tent – We counted 125 new exhibitors. I (Frank) spent the last 45 minutes of the Expo in the Tent because I did not know what was out there. Next year I will spend more time in the Tent.
- More companies working together to expand into new markets. Example, LAI/SEGA, Funovation/Omniverse VR and others.
- Retail exhibitors did well. In the past, retail was important to IAAPA, but there has been a void in this category for several years. The Buzz Boyz would like to see IAAPA have a section dedicated to retail as we believe it would be a great opportunity for buyers.
- Apple Breakfast is an annual ‘must attend’ – Allen Weisberg (CEO) kept us entertained and fed as he went through three Apple announcements: 1) the new Apple Photo Studio Prism that is half the size of the FEC model with all of the same features; 2) the new Apple licensing deal with Marvel for all of the Marvel characters; and 3) the new Photo Budi picture printer
- Seminars – There had to be more than 100 seminars but we only got to attend a few of them on Monday. Our three favorites that day were:
- ‘FEC Arcades: Fast Forward to Fun’ with speakers Steven Paris, chief operation officer Elaut USA; Jim Bennington, Lucky Strike Entertainment; Patrick Michael, Sega; and Kyle Berger, Betson.
- ‘Redemption Rally’ with CEO Game Time Mike Abecassis, Joseph Camarota III, director of operations, Alpha-Omega Amusements, Michael Nowak, Rhode Island Novelty and Tony Tallarico (QubicaAMF)
- ‘FEC: Groups Grow Your Business Exponentially’ with Janice Jokkel, TrainerTainment.
In the 1960s and 1970s, AMOA was the big fall show. Bob Blundred was the MOA (now AMOA) executive director whom IAAPA hired away in 1963 to be their managing director. A decade later, Ted Scarlett saw the future of attractions and founded Tourist Attraction & Parks Magazine (TAP) in 1972, the same year that Disney opened. At the time he was a souvenir pennant manufacturer. IAAPA was then called the American Association of Amusement Parks. The ‘I’ was then added for International and then the ending ‘A’ was added for Attractions.
Buzz Boyz II, Fourth Quarter 2018 and The Outlook for 2019
Fourth Quarter 2018 has three weeks remaining as we write this. The ‘buzz’ from IAAPA can still be heard as many manufacturer attraction and game orders are backlogged and developers of new FECs are trying to get open for Christmas/New Year duel weeks, the super peak weeks as far as revenues go.
Our industry is expanding (now cautiously) and moving forward even though the stock market is unsteady, showing large drops in the financial markets. The concerns are: a) interest rates appear to be on the rise according to the Fed Chairman; b) Tariffs between the U.S. and China got a 90-day relief period from President Trump as we all sit on pins and needles waiting to see if there is a deal between the two countries. We should note that tariffs are not good for our industry. Some industry manufacturers whose products are made in China and other countries are looking for opportunities to have these products made in the United States.
The Outlook for 2019
The Outlook for 2019 is ‘positive yet cautious’. Some sectors of the out-of-home leisure entertainment industry will undergo a transformation. One of these sectors is trampoline parks. As the nation reaches saturation, those that are able to make the transition to more of a family entertainment center will out-perform the competition. FECs in general will need to raise the bar of their food and beverage offerings to complete with restaurants.
Malls Are an Opportunity for Our Industry
Prediction: Malls have so much available space that mall owners will become operators of entertainment centers, not by choice but by business opportunity. Great leasing deals are still open to amusement people as the pullout of anchor stores continues. Note that 35 years ago malls did not want arcades or entertainment centers. Now they are begging for entertainment.
In the next issue, we will discuss more about opportunities in malls for our industry and will have the figures regarding the retail sector for Christmas shopping. Our prediction is that it will be a decrease from 2017 even though online shopping will show a huge increase over 2017.