First published in iNTERGAME, September 2021 issue. Find the original article here.
Laser tag is a sector of the industry that holds a special place the hearts of both young and young of heart. It provides a fun, group-based activity for players of all ages, and would, under normal circumstances, be a lucrative anchor attraction for any number of FECs worldwide. The pandemic has, however, completely stifled all out-of-home entertainment; the majority the FEC-going masses worldwide have been kept indoors for the better part of two years, content only with solitary activities like home gaming/streaming services, with socialising taking the form of video calls.
The demand for a day out should now, theoretically, be sky high, but the damage done to a sector so heavily reliant on foot traffic could be insurmountable.
How has the laser tag sector performed then, considering such advertisty?
“Given the circumstances, the laser tag sector globally is performing very strongly,” said Laserforce’s Rohan Kelly. “Many of our operators are reporting revenues equal to or exceeding pre-Covid levels, as their customers have pent-up demand to get out and do something.
“We have received many reports from those who were on the fence about investing during such uncertainly about coming down wth a serious case of not Covid by FOMO (fear of missing out). While this has been surprising and exciting, every snap lockdown or regulatory hurdle enacted can throw a spanner in the works and cause disruptions when owners and operators are trying to plan for the future.”
A certain level of trepidation remains in the public, as fears of further lockdowns are forever on people’s minds. That said, the trend in active play before the pandemic has only intensified since, as lockdown-induced isolation has increased the demand for it.
“People around the world are craving ways to actively interact and have fun with others in real life, whether they be friends or strangers,” said Kelly. “Add to that Laserforce’s ability to relieve stress and burn off pent-up energy, and we believe that Laserforce centres are going to come out of this pandemic even stronger and more successful than before.
“Further, a gradual transition in the modern world to post-consumerism is taking place and this comes with a strong desire for experiences, rather than products–which is what Laserforce provides. As our technology advances, so too does the force to get people out of their homes, away from their desks, off their couches and into their local Laserforce arena.”
Interest is expected to continue its uptick, continued Kelly, with centres filling almost immediately after restrictions lift, in some cases.
“In many places around the world, this has already been the case. Every time one city, state or country emerges from lockdown, we get reports of significant spikes in throughput and revenue. Our existing network of Laserforce operators are upholding a positive outlook for the future and have taken this opportunity to rejuvenate their equipment and are looking to include more arena features to give their customers something fresh when they return.”
Creative Works is similarly optimistic and has high hopes for a resurgent sector once the public is allowed to mix together safely again.
“Laser tag is performing extremely well, as lockdowns lift in the United States and more customers are going back to FECs and other location-based entertainment venues,” said the company’s Danny Gruening. “This high level of performance is because laser tag has the three pillars of successful attractions: social, story-driven, immersive. Laser tag incorporates all three elements into an attraction that has continued growing for more than 30 years.
“Laser tag allows groups of friends (social) to enter a themed world (immersive) where they are given an objective in order to win the game (story-driven). This attraction has always been popular, but the experience is even more appealing to people after they’ve been quarantined in their homes for more than a year. “I expect the popularity and interest to continue elevating as more and more countries lift lockdowns. In addition to being social, story-driven and immersive, operators can target different age groups and demographics by scaling the game. For example, on busy weekends, laser tag will generally be a two-team game where players tag each other, and tag targets within the arena. This game is easy for guests to understand, especially when a lot of them might be kids, and it allows the employees to efficiently move everyone through the experience. But on evenings and weekends, operators can use all the amazing game formats their laser tag equipment provides: capture the flag, zombies, etc.”
“These games have more strategy and take a bit more time to explain, but teenagers and adults find these games even more appealing. We’ve seen a trend in recent years where laser tag has become a strong source of income for corporate events, adult parties and group play.”
As it occupies space in the aforementioned active play category, laser tag offers operators another string to their bow, said Gruening.
“Laser tag has always been an exciting, heart-pumping experience. Operators can use the ‘active’ trend among consumers to market their attraction to people who maybe haven’t played before but are looking for unique and fun ways to stay healthy with family and friends.”
The R&D train rarely slows in the amusements world and laser tag is no exception. Developing new and exciting experiences is vital, as consumers who have been deprived of such thrills will expect something new when they are finally able to visit an FEC.
“Laserforce is always developing new products — rain, hail or Covid,” said Kelly. Here is a taste of some of the latest and greatest we are offering:
- Debit card integrations – The Laserforce Gen8 Infinity Battlesuit is now integrated with the industry’s leading debit card and point of sale companies. Being able to activate the Gen8 Battlesuit with a prepaid game card, just like a customer would do for arcade machines and other attractions revolutionizes the way you can operate your Laserforce system. This unique patented technology enhances the integrity of a Laserforce attraction’s throughput model by ensuring every game is accounted for and providing valuable analytical tools and insights. This is just the beginning and there will be much more to look forward to in the future, so watch this space!
- Proximity detection – Necessity is the mother of all invention, and in many parts of the world it is now necessary to impose Covid-safe measures in FECs in order to operate. Laserforce has acted quickly to ensure we can offer such measures to our customers and their end users, by developing a robust and reliable proximity detection feature in our Gen8 Infinity Battlesuits. Now, if desired (or required), our operators can simply enable this feature to automatically provide players with a gentle, and customizable, audio and visual in-game reminder to socially distance if they get too close to one another.
- Gen8 Auras – On the back of our innovative, but regulatory-driven, development outlined above, also comes something truly fun – Gen8 Auras! Gen8 Auras offers our operators and their players exciting new ways to play Laserforce by bringing a much deeper richness and interactivity to the gameplay.
- New Game Modes – Laserforce is always developing ways to keep our end users engaged, challenged, and of course entertained, by tailoring the game experience to our operators’ desires. By popular demand, our latest software update comes with an exciting new game type… head down to your local Laserforce arena to find out more details.
- Infinity Lighting – Laserforce is still head and shoulders above the rest when it comes to Battlesuit lighting. Visible blinking LEDs are a thing of the past and our stunning Infinity lighting attests to that with a seamless flow of a full spectrum of colours and patterns available to our Gen8 operators.
Gruening said: “Oftentimes, entertainment operators (and customers) think the briefing and vesting steps are the ‘boring’ parts of laser tag that are required before they can have fun in the arena. But, when down right, the briefing/vesting room can create an experience, engage guests and bring a whole new level of excitement. This is why we developed our new Laser Tag Launch Rooms.
“Laser Tag Launch Rooms transform the standard briefing and vesting rooms into a full experience for guests. We integrate video, audio, lighting, and atmospheric effects to level up the storytelling and build anticipation. These are all tied together to create a show before a hidden door is opened to reveal the laser tag arena.”
All of this paints a positive picture for the future of these two bright lights in the sector. But what does the future hold for these companies, and for the sector in general?
“Laserforce has always been the mover and shaker of the laser tag industry and we plan to keep it that way. We are always looking to adapt our products to the changing landscape of entertainment, and we are already responding to a shifting demand towards deeper interactivity and complexity in gameplay, richness in features and satisfaction from reward and levelling systems.
“We have integrated with other industry-leading entertainment companies to bring cutting edge technology to the industry, and we will continue to do so. Laserforce holds so much more ROI potential for our customers than just ‘green good, red bad.'”
“Customers have higher expectations than ever before, so ‘good enough’ likely won’t cut it,” said Gruening. “I think more operators will want to do fully custom, high fidelity experiences to raise the bar and keep guests coming back. A ‘high fidelity’ experience can be accomplished in a lot of ways, including over-the-top theme work, DMX light shows, projection mapping and Launch Rooms.”
One problem recently experienced by the wider amusements industry is its recent shortage of microchips, caused, in part, by Covid-19. This adversity seems to have been mirrored in the laser tag sector, with Kelly detailing the problems experienced at the supply level.
“The pandemic has also affected the laser tag sector indirectly through the disruption of global supply chains and shipping,” he said. “Many laser tag suppliers didn’t have the prudence or act quick enough to safeguard their supply chains. This has led to major delays or has downright forced them to abandon support of their older equipment. Laserforce has proudly navigated through these disruptions with dexterity and foresight, allowing us to continue to support our customers without delay, in a time when they need it most.”
Although none in the industry at large could have foreseen the effects that the pandemic would have, it has been the test of its best and brightest to emerge triumphant on the other side. Laser tag has proven, if it ever needed to, it is one of the market’s most resilient segments, and one of its best-loved, as evidenced by the consumer’s continued demand for new and exciting experiences.