Entertainment Venue – Software & Hardware 

Entertainment Venue

Software & Hardware 

One of the most complicated parts of operating an entertainment venue is the software and hardware required to operate it at a high level. 

Unfortunately, it’s only going to get more complicated as new software and hardware features are integrated to further improve our guests’ out-of-home entertainment experiences!

Most operators may not know this, but LASERTRON has been on the front lines of developing our own entertainment venue software and hardware for many years. 

We created our first software tool over 25 years ago after failing to convince one of the first family entertainment center POS companies to add a new feature we believed was a “must have” for any operator; however, they didn’t think it was a feature their clients would want – so they gave us the option of paying them $25,000 to write the software for us, which they would own!

Fortunately, we decided to invest in our own proprietary software and we designed it exactly the way we needed it to work for our type of venue

So, what was the first software tool we developed for ourselves? It was the ability to reserve time slots for our LASERTRON laser tag attraction – both at our sign-in counter and to book players, parties, and groups over the phone – remember this was 25+ years ago. 

Once we created our reservation software, it simply made sense to keep going – so we developed our own Point of Sale software and integrated it with our reservation software… and that’s how our covert, in-house software development began and never ended. 

To date, we have invested over a million dollars developing, testing, and improving our software and hardware.

As we added more and more features, we realized our center manager software and hardware would work well for some of our LASERTRON clients who operated similar venues to ours. 

“If you’re truly looking for a one stop shop for your POS system…this is hands down the best. On top of that, the service is top notch. Multiple updates yearly. When you ask for something to be added….it actually gets done.”– Brian Cote with Hilltop Family Fun Center 

Today, our Center Manager Pro software suite can match what all the other entertainment center software companies can do, but not exactly. Our software and hardware is designed for the operation of a very specific type of entertainment venue, which means, in several important ways, it works differently. 

In light of those differences, the typical entertainment venue is unlikely to use a significant number of our most important software and hardware features. This is also why many of these features aren’t available from the other software and hardware providers – if there aren’t enough operators saying, “Hey we need these features”, then it follows that they will not exist.

The one thing that has changed dramatically since we created our first version of our Center Manager software and hardware is the number of integrated features. In fact, in the last seven years alone, the speed of our software and hardware development and the complexity of integrating all the needed pieces has been bordering on the insane.

For example, we have already integrated online player, birthday party, group, and even corporate group reservations with deposits, full payments, split deposits, or split payments, as well as fast casual and online food and beverage ordering (with integrated pagers for guests and digital pagers for servers and managers), a more guest friendly cashless system, integrated email, CRM, scheduled tasks, texting, digital signage, waivers, physical and virtual kiosks, staff scheduling, time clock, staff and management reviews, problem logs, party and group surveys, membership & time based guest cards (with recurring, auto-stop recurring due to guest non-use, and non-recurring time based options, plus our monthly membership value guarantee feature), as well as attraction credits with bonus credits that expire in (x) days, and much more. 

By the way, attraction credits that can’t all be used on the same day, but expire in less than (x) days, is a powerful marketing tool that helps us to encourage our guests to come back to our venues in less than (x) days.

Based on the growing complexity of our software and hardware, we DO NOT add features that won’t enhance the core functionality of how we operate our type of entertainment venue. Adding features that don’t integrate in any beneficial way would only add to the complexity of the software as well as the support required.

Our goal is not to make software and hardware that will work for every type of entertainment venue – it’s to create software and hardware that is designed to deliver a fantastic guest experience for a specific type of entertainment venue. 

As our software and hardware continues to evolve and improve, more of our clients are seeing the benefits it can provide and are deciding to switch to our Center Manager Pro software.

We have postponed writing about our Center Manager Pro software many times and we think it’s important to explain why.

One of the main reasons is because selling our software more frequently will slow down the speed by which we can innovate, improve, and evolve the critical upgrades we are continuously working on for our specific type of venue. 

Every decision we make is based on the software and hardware needed next to take our unique way of operating to an even higher level of effectiveness. Everything else is secondary, including the number of systems we sell and install. 

As of right now, we only install about 4 to 6 systems per year of our most advanced software and hardware. We actually have a goal to not install more than two systems in any given month, because installing more will slow down our ability to continuously improve our software and hardware. 

Our software and hardware systems are a critical tool, but ONLY for operators that need what our system is designed to specifically do. By limiting the number of things we focus on, our software and hardware has become much more robust at a faster rate than any other option available today and that’s because we limit the number of distractions. 

Want to hear a crazy fact? A significant portion of our client’s suggestions get programmed into our system – especially when it’s a must have idea. Why are so many of our client’s ideas added? Because they understand what our Center Manager Pro is designed to do – so their suggestions are focused on making those strengths even stronger. 

“Center Manager Pro is a sophisticated reservation/marketing/point-of-sale system. It actually is responsible for increasing the revenue for my center” Peter Murphy of Laser Flash 

In fact, we have one prospective client we have been working with for well over a year who has provided us with a lot of suggestions for how to make our software even better. Most of these suggestions have already been implemented. Why? Because their ideas align with our software and hardware design goals.

Going from Complicated to Complex

I think it is important to talk about how complicated it really is to develop software and hardware for our industry and why any company who tries to design a system that can fit all types of entertainment venues is really creating a hot mess of mediocre software and hardware. 

It’s literally impossible to design a software and hardware system that is highly functional and will work seamlessly for all types of entertainment venues. If a company says they can, they are selling you a fairy tale that will only grow more unbelievable as they tack on each new software and hardware feature on top of their house of cards. 

Going forward, you are probably going to see two types of entertainment venue software and hardware providers. 

Those who say their software and hardware is flexible enough to work for any type of entertainment venue, a 333lb swiss army knife, which means it’s so multi-functional that it can’t even do the basics well. 

And the other type, a tiny handful, who pick a lane and decide to only develop software and hardware for venues who operate in a very specific way.

We can tell you with 100% certainty that the complexity that we are dealing with now is only going to get worse. This means each operator has to choose the software and hardware system that is designed to maximize the type of venue they operate or want to operate going forward.

If we don’t pick a lane, we will NEVER be able to fully maximize the benefits of the type of venue we are trying to create for our guests. 

To give you just one example, our software is only fully integrated with Intercard. If we added just one additional card reader integration, it would exponentially increase the complexity of testing new updates, debugging, as well as the overall knowledge base needed to provide support. 

Going forward, less is going to be more – each existing and new software and hardware feature has to be looked at as one piece of a holistic pie. Only those software and hardware features that continue to add significant value to our guests’ experience should be kept – all others should be eliminated. 

Entertainment venue software and hardware providers have to be more like Apple with the idea that simplifying or eliminating software features and hardware components is just as important as adding new ones. 

As an example, expensive, multifunctional kiosks are DEAD! Or, at least 9 out of 10 that exist today including those that will be sold over the next few years. Expensive kiosks that try to do everything, but ultimately make the overall guest experience worse, are going to become giant paperweights. 

Another important point is that cashless isn’t what really matters – making things Seamlessly Easy and Better for our guests is what truly matters

Current cashless systems are designed to make things easier for the operator – not their guests. The reality is that most cashless systems make it harder for our guests to buy from us.

Our first question should always be: 

“How will this new feature, device, or process make our guests’ pre-visit, visit, and post-visit significantly better and, more importantly, easier for them to buy what they want from us and to do it more often?”

By the way, traditional sit down dining in an entertainment venue is also DEAD!  

Is this really an extreme statement or just a fact that some aren’t willing to admit – at least not yet?!? 

Are there a tiny number of examples of entertainment venues doing traditional sit down dining at a high level? I’m sure there are, but I can’t think of one good reason why an operator would want to provide this option – especially when the alternative is so much more profitable and provides our guests with a much better social experience.

Traditional sit down dining is literally a competitive disadvantage today, tomorrow, and forever for any entertainment venue. Why? Because, Social Gaming with Integrated Food & Beverage is going to replace it and it already has. 

In fact, if we could only pick one defining focus of our Center Manager Pro, it would be a fully integrated software and hardware system that is specifically designed to maximize our guests’ ability to play, laugh, eat and drink, while socializing with their friends, family, groups, and coworkers in their own reserved spaces

The above is a great example of picking a lane when it comes to software and hardware development. We are not going to waste any of our resources on creating a better, traditional sitdown dining experience – especially when it’s 100% the wrong way to go for the type of entertainment venue our Center Manager Pro is specifically designed to help.

Again, the right direction, at least for us and many of our clients, is creating the very best high-level fast casual dining experience while our guests are playing games and socializing with their friends, family, and coworkers in their own reserved spaces.

We call our latest software and hardware enhancements – Guest Experience 360. There is no longer a dividing line between where our guests’ gaming, food & beverage, and socializing with their friends, family, and coworkers begins and ends. 

I could go on, but I’ll stop here and leave you to consider the following quote from Carl…
“Strategy is the necessary response to the inescapable reality of limited resources. No entity, regardless of size, has unlimited resources. Strategy, therefore, is about making choices on how we will concentrate our limited resources to achieve competitive advantage. All else follows from there.” Carl Von Clausewitz

Thanks for reading!

Jim Kessler

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