Discovering more about LASERTRON Battle Royale Squads

Discovering more about LASERTRON Battle Royale Squads

Below is my response to an email Bob Cooney sent me a few weeks ago. Bob is a Speaker, Author, Mentor, and also the founder of a new type of convention and trade show experience called Show Up.

Bob asked if we were able to finish our new Battle Royale game, which is similar to the hugely successful online Battle Royale video games like Fortnite, PUBG, Call of Duty, and Apex Legends. It’s important to note that I added more details to “My response” below concerning our evolving understanding of our Battle Royale Squads experience (by the way, Fortnite recently came out with a similar feature to one of ours).

My response to Bob…

We did finish up our LASERTRON Battle Royale Solo game experience in late January and ran two Battle Royale Solo Tournaments in our Buffalo venue and one in our Rochester venue before shutting down because of Covid-19. LASERTRON Battle Royale Solo proved to be a very fun and challenging game, but we also learned, during those first six weeks of operating, that it was never going to be a great one; however, it did help us to understand what we needed to do next.

Due to Covid-19, we were closed for four months, so we had lots of time to work on what was missing. 

One of the big improvements was creating and releasing our LASERTRON Battle Royale Squads game format, which is a game changer for multiplayer, out-of-home attraction experiences. 

The inherent problem with Battle Royale Solo was that it was everyone against everyone, whereas Battle Royale Squads enables players to form squads and allows them to work together to achieve a common goal.

Now having been open for over three months, we’ve already run four Battle Royale Squads Tournament Events between both of our venues. It’s important to note that Battle Royale Squads is the only game format we have been running since reopening.

So, what’s the big deal about going from Battle Royale Solo to Battle Royale Squads

The number one request we get when people sign in to play has always been, “Can we all play on the same team?” With the LASERTRON Battle Royale Squads game format, that’s exactly what we let our guests do. I won’t go into all the details here, but the “social” effect of letting friends and family play together is HUGE

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LASERTRON’s Battle Royale Squads is a very addictive, social gaming experience. 

The reality is that traditional laser tag is dead (just like black light UV painted arenas are dead and YES theming too!). That doesn’t mean traditional UV painted and themed laser tag arenas aren’t still making money – what it does mean is that they are beyond their use by date. 

What’s not dead is real world (out-of-home), first person, multiplayer, shooting/tagging games – especially ones with arenas that are 100% LED illuminated, programmable, and fully integrated into the gaming experience. The intensity and realism of game play that we have achieved in our two venues far surpasses all other laser tag offerings.

It’s important to point out that our Center Manager Pro software suite, along with our integrated Tournament Rankings, Points, Winnings, and Event software, is critically important to making all of this work at the highest level possible, and with little effort from players or operators.

In our industry, operators often run their centers like an accountant (i.e. the only thing that matters are the numbers). The numbers do matter, but strong, profitable numbers are a bi-product of providing our guests with truly amazing attraction experiences that “re-attract” our guests back to our venues on an extremely regular basis (i.e. one or two times monthly and not just a few times per year).

Most operators spend virtually zero time understanding the psychological and physiological needs of their guests. It’s important to point out that if we want great numbers going forward, we have to start focusing on how all of our attraction experiences are psychologically and physiologically affecting our guests (positively or negatively). 

Most importantly, we have to knowingly build, improve, and evolve truly amazing habit forming attraction experiences that are so desirable that our guests choose to become “forever” guests. 

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Part of the problem is that most attraction manufacturers develop attractions that are as simple as possible to operate, because that’s what many operators want. This focus on making attractions that are simple to operate, instead of creating ones that are the most fun to experience, is why mediocre attraction experiences are the norm in our industry. 

For example, you know when a laser tag attraction has seriously gone off the rails when the owner, manager, or staff member gives a tour and they spend most of their time showing off the UV painted wall murals and obstacles – as if UV paint is going to make the laser tag game experience more fun to play. LASERTRON’s Battle Royale Squads’ gameplay is so immersive and intense that players don’t have the time to notice what’s on the walls! They are far too engrossed in what really matters, which is working together with their squadmates to win the round!

It’s important to understand that mediocre, out-of-home attraction experiences are the number one reason in-home entertainment is kicking our out-of-home entertainment asses. In-home entertainment is a much bigger, long-term threat to our out-of-home survival than Covid-19. Covid-19 is simply an accelerator of what was already happening and will continue to happen if we don’t get our sh*t together.

Then I said to Bob in my email…

All the above is really a waste of words, because if you just walk into our fully programmable 100% LED illuminated LASERTRON arena in Rochester, New York and just walk around while a LASERTRON Battle Royale Squads session is being played, your physical senses will quickly be immersed in the intensity of the game experience. And your brain will completely understand why Real World, First Person, Multiplayer experiences,like LASERTRON’s Battle Royale Squads, are fully capable, and designed to be, the highest grossing attractions when operated in the best out-of-home entertainment venues by the best operators.

By the way, the majority of our players are 16 and older at both of our venues and that number continues to grow. (New Data: 30 is the average age of a Squad Captain of the Top 28 qualifying Squads at both of our monthly Adult Tournament venues. This makes sense because the average age of video game players is now 34 years old).

Below was my reply to one of Bob’s comments in which he agreed that the social element of an attraction experience was critically important…

One of our managers, Brad, recently noticed something very interesting about the guests who formed their own Squads. He explained that when we used to play team games there wasn’t very much talking going on in-between games or rounds, but when we started playing our new Battle Royale Squads format, communication between squadmates shot up dramatically. (My brother Steve confirmed this when he read through this part of the email. He observed that there were many intense in-game, rapid-fire communications going on between players playing together on a squad, for example: “on me!”, “move up!”, “spread out!”, “flank left!”, “I need help!”, “fall back!”).

Before I continue, it’s important to note that each Squad is assigned their own sector. Squads must locate and check-in to their sectors prior to the start of each round. 

What Brad noticed, and my brother Steve confirmed, was that since everyone in a Squad knew each other, they were much more comfortable talking to each other during and after a round was completed. While at their sector, squadmates openly asked each other questions, discussed strategy, and devised plans on how to play more effectively as a squad in the next round. 

Brad had identified an important distinction between our new Squads game and other team games. In most team games, groups of players are divided up and mixed with other players (who they may not know) to form a team. During these team games, players talk very little to each other because they are surrounded by strangers. If they don’t understand something about the game, they are far less likely to be as vocal and ask a question in front of strangers. 

Brad’s observation above isn’t even something that could be noticed in 99% of all other laser tags, because almost all other laser tag operators play just one game and then require all players to exit the arena. 

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We operate our LASERTRON experiences very differently than 99% of all other laser tag operators. 

At our two venues, we only offer 30-minute sessions of playing time, which are made of multiple, back to back games or rounds. Players don’t go into our arena and play just one game for 8, 10, or 12 minutes and then exit the arena; instead, they play in a 30-minute session where they play 5 to 7 rounds, back-to-back, before exiting the arena

The reason we play multiple rounds is to give players more opportunities to learn how to play. If players go in and play just one game and they come out with a bad score, they may think they suck and might never come back again to play. However, when players get to play 5 to 7 rounds back-to-back during one of our sessions, players almost always see significant improvement in their skills, tactics, scores, and rank from their first round to their last.

Key Insight – Each additional round, within a session, provides the opportunity to try something new – players discover that the more they playthe more they learnthe better and more confident they become

It’s important to note that we’ve been playing sessions with multiple games, or rounds, from day one, for nearly 32 years. In fact, our Buffalo venue operates the longest running laser tag arena in the United States. 

The other benefit to running sessions with multiple games, or rounds, is that our guests are able to experience, and understand, more intense, habit forming games. Habit forming games must be intuitive while also having more “depth” or layers to game play.

One of the most important rules to forming a habit is frequency not time. 

For example, if you want to form a habit, it’s better to do something every day for 30 days even if it’s for only 10 minutes (30 repetitions x 10 minutes = 300 minutes of time) than to do something 10 times in 30 days for 60 minutes (10 repetitions x 60 minutes = 600 minutes of time). Short, frequent, and consistent repetition of a desired habit (i.e. 5 to 7 rounds per session along with monthly player cards) is what makes an attraction habit form and ultimately stick.

In between my emails to Bob, I was having another email conversation with Ben Jones (one of the Three Amigos who founded F2F). The details below were a part of that conversation and I believe are relevant to this discussion.

My email to Ben ended with the following observation…

I recently listened to a podcast interview by Robbie Kellman Baxter (Author of The Forever Transaction) with Mike Blank, SVP of EA’s Player Network. Mike’s focus is on growing player subscriptions for EA games, but more importantly, player engagement and retention. The focus or mantra at EA is “Player First.”  

Mike made a few important and insightful observations. 

First, even though most players said they wanted the ability to play a wide variety of games (i.e. breadth), the reality was that most of their players spent the vast majority of their time playing a few core games. 

Second, he observed that many players wanted to go much deeper into their favorite game (i.e. depth). 

He explained that if a player’s favorite game doesn’t improve and provide them with a better, more engaging, deeper, and evolving player experience, the player is more likely to move on to something new, and it may not be a game that’s on EA’s platform. 

Lastly, he went on to explain that EA still needed to have both (breadth and depth), because they catered to a wide variety of gamers. BUT, he said the key to getting players to stick, and become long-term subscribers (retention), was making sure the games their players loved to play went much deeper down the rabbit hole (i.e. depth). 

In the out-of-home entertainment world, the vast majority of entertainment venues focus on breadth (i.e. a variety of attractions) and virtually zero time on depth (quality of the experience). This lack of depth, or quality of our attraction experiences, is the number one reason why most entertainment centers only average a few guest visits per year. To be very blunt, most out-of-home attractions are boring compared to what gamers can play from the comfort of their own home; if this wasn’t true, our guests would return more often.

Some might criticize the fact that I use the word “gamers” as an important market that out-of-home entertainment venues need to cater to. This is a truly bizarre criticism because the vast majority of the human population can now be classified as GAMERS!  

I’ve said this multiple times over several years, the number of out-of-home entertainment centers is going to continue to shrink if operators and attraction manufacturers don’t start working together, at a much higher level, to create truly amazing attraction experiences; attraction experiences that drive dramatically higher repeat play for a wider range of guests (i.e. gamers) who visit our venues. 

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Important Note: Habitual repeat play, and visits, will not happen until we learn how to create, evolve, and operate attraction experiences that are designed from start to finish to be habit forming AND do it in a way that is truly beneficial to our guests’ lives. 

Need an example of what happens when we don’t control, dramatically improve, and evolve our entertainment experiences? 

Movie Theaters.

The vast majority of Movie Theaters are going to die because they don’t control anything when it comes to the theatrical content displayed on their screens. 

Many out-of-home entertainment venues aren’t very far behind Movie Theaters when it comes to a lack of control over the quality of their entertainment experiences. This lack of control is a self-inflicted problem – especially if we continue to purchase and operate mediocre attraction experiences. 

Copying what everyone else is doing, or just doing it a little better, is no longer going to work for our out-of-home entertainment industry.

What are we going to do, that is going to be at least 5x better than what everyone else is doing? 

Even better, what can we do that will be dramatically different and 10x better

What are we going to do…

To be truly unique?

Dramatically better, bigger, or both?

Proprietary?

Branded?

Exclusive? (i.e. radius protection)

Thanks for reading!

800-897-8766 ext 106
Founder / CEO

You can find more info about Bob Cooney at the below link,

bobcooney.com

You can find out more info about F2F and the Three Amigos (Ben Jones, George Smith, and Rick Iceberg) at the below link,

F2conference

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