Social Gaming, New LT-X3 Phaser, Automatic Axe Scoring


In this newsletter, 

  1. LASERTRON’s New LT-X3 Phaser
  2. NEW Automatic Axe Scoring Powered by LASERTRON on Display at IAAPA
  3. What’s Most IMPORTANT to the Success of a Social, Gaming, Drinking, and Eating Venue? 

LASERTRON’s New LT-X3 Phaser 

Pre-Orders Starting January 10th, 2023

The LASERTRON LT-X3 has been a work in progress for over 4 years. It was designed to be the most fully functional phaser in the laser tag world as well as with many of the unique bells and whistles found in online games. 

For example, Dual Red and Green Lasers, Dual Stereo Speakers, Long Distance and Wide Angle IR Emitters, Large Touch Screen Display, Dual Control Buttons, Flashlight Mode, Fully Functional Reticle Scope, Vibrator, Multiple IR Sensors as well as Multiple IR Sensors embedded in every opening at the front of the phaser.

The phaser is designed to incorporate future software and hardware upgrades, enhancements, and modifications. These upgrades will be released on a scheduled basis. 

NEW Automatic Axe Scoring Powered by LASERTRON On Display at IAAPA

Stop by our Booth #1800 to experience the most advanced, high-end, turnkey, boutique style Axe Throwing Experience Powered by LASERTRON. 

What’s Most IMPORTANT to the Success of a Social, Gaming, Drinking, and Eating Venue? 

The reality is that there are lots of things that are important; including the obvious, which are the Social, Gaming, Drinking, and Eating parts. 

However, there are critical design elements and operational systems that are given far too little thought. In fact, hiring and retaining the right staff members is a very important part to creating a truly exceptional Social Bonding venue.

Most importantly, we must remember that the ultimate goal of our social out-of-home venues is to enable our guests to regularly and easily experience the highest quality bonding experiences with their friends, family, coworkers, and groups, which means everything has to be designed, managed, and operated to fully enhance the social bonding part. 

Again, it’s not about one or two things – it’s about dozens of small, medium, and large pieces that must be designed to fit together to provide our guests with amazing social bonding experiences. If we successfully accomplish this goal, our guests will return to our venues at a dramatically higher rate than the typical out-of-home entertainment center. To be clear, this is a very difficult goal to achieve.

The crafting of a social bonding event begins when one or more people decide to bring together their friends, family, coworkers, or group. The opportunity is to facilitate truly unique, high quality social bonding experiences that are impossible to replicate at home or at any other out-of-home venue.

From this point forward, we will be highlighting what is required to develop the best out-of-home social bonding venues… 

1. Pick a Lane – An out-of-home entertainment venue CANNOT be designed to cater to everyone. We have to pick a lane by choosing a core demographic. If we design our venues to delight a specific target market and do it better than all or at least most of the other venues in our area, then we are likely to own the market or at least own a big enough slice to create a very profitable business. 

For out-of-home Social, Gaming, Adult Drinking, and Eating venues, the best overall target market is Adults between the ages of 21 to 35. 

Choosing a target market doesn’t exclude anyone from visiting our venues, but in order to be more successful we have to choose. By picking a specific demographic, it makes it far easier to figure out how to design and develop the tools and offerings needed as well as the look and feel of our venues. 

Once we define our core target market, it enables us to make better and faster decisions, because we can focus ALL of our efforts on what our chosen guests are likely to desire.

2. Reservations – Our guests’ ability to easily plan and schedule their bonding event is very important because it enables them to craft their desired outing by selecting their preferred social bonding experiences. This selection process also shows us what experiences our guests prefer the most, which tells us what is driving our revenues the most. It also tells us what needs to be improved or replaced. 

For every bonding event, we must design the entire process from the beginning, which means providing our guests with the ability to easily schedule their events online, by phone, or in-person. 

It’s not easy to craft an intuitive process for scheduling events, but it has to be done. Especially, since existing and future social gaming experiences are booked in chunks of time, which can vary from 30 to 120 minutes. 

Everything, including the information on our websites, over the phone, or in-person must seamlessly flow towards the booking and scheduling of the social gaming experiences our guests wish to participate in. The details provided by each guest must flow into our venue’s systems to allow the system to queue up all of their chosen social bonding experiences.

3. Arriving Guests – As our guests arrive, the process for signing them in must be as intuitive as possible while still capturing the information necessary to maximize their social bonding experiences with their friends, family, coworkers, or group. 

In addition, we must capture the information needed to thank our guests after they leave our venues. It’s also important that we provide them with a FREE and compelling bonus value that triggers them to come back for more fun – it’s critical that the bonus value must expire within a month to increase the likelihood of a return visit.  

Collecting every guests’ contact information enables us to re-market to them in the future as well as remind them that their FREE and valuable bonus value is going to expire in (x) days. It’s important that our venues have the data and automated software tools that will help drive more frequent visits. 

Core Bonding Components 

The following are critical components required when developing a Social Bonding venue. It’s important to note that not one is more important than any of the others

Why isn’t one more important than the others? Because all of them need each other to achieve the highest level of social bonding within our venues. Any one or two without the others is going to make our venues less successful and less resilient to both current and future competition. 

1. Reservable Social Gathering Spaces (with comfortable bar height seating, bar top tables, viewing of the Social Games being played, along with integrated fast casual drinking and eating service)

Just like we reserve our Social Gaming Areas (i.e. Bowling, Axe Throwing, Escape Rooms, Football Bowling, Billiards, etc.), we should provide our guests with the ability to reserve their own Social Gathering Space to further enhance their social bonding with friends, family, coworkers, or a group. 

Social Gathering Spaces should be available for our guests to reserve before, in between, or after their Social Gaming experience. These reservable spaces can be positioned near the social gaming areas so the group feels like they are a part of the community of people gathered within our venues. 

We also need to provide areas that are semi-private, but enable our guests to still see as well as be seen by the people gathered within our venues. In addition, we should have a few private areas for more intimate gatherings. 

All Social Gathering Spaces need to have fast casual drinking and eating services integrated into them.

These spaces can be reserved for a set monetary amount or packaged into a higher value Social Gaming offer. It would be an upsell that reserves a Gathering Space where our guests can hangout with their friends, family, coworkers, or group when they first arrive, in between their Gaming experiences, after they finish, or whatever combinations work best for our guests. 

If these spaces aren’t reserved, they can be used by other guests when available. Displays above each space can show when the area has been reserved with a clock counting down the arrival of the group who reserved the space.

2. Reservable Social Gaming Areas  (with comfortable bar height seating, bar top tables, viewing of the Social Game being played, along with integrated fast casual drinking and eating service)

Six Steps to Creating Successful Social Gaming Areas

Step One Onboarding

How do we provide our guests with a successful onboarding process? This step begins online, when our guests enter our venues, or right before their gaming experience begins. This step is important because it enables our guests to provide us with important information (i.e. name, codename, photo, contact info, waiver, etc.) that enables us to properly set up their Social Gaming experience.

Step Two – Perennial Games

Providing our guests with highly fun, engaging, multiplayer, team based, perennial games, that are recognizable or familiar and easy to grasp and, most importantly, games that facilitate and enhance social bonding through play.

Step Three – Too Many Games To Play In Just One Visit

It’s critical that we provide a large enough variety of the very best Social Gaming experiences that our guests can’t experience all of them in just one visit

The optimal goal is to have our guests enjoy two experiences per visit. This means we need to have at least three, and preferably more, highly fun and addictive social gaming experiences so our guests will want to come back and experience our other attractions on their next visit. 

Step Four – Variety of Games within Each Social Gaming Experience

Each Social Gaming type needs to be designed with a wide variety of games that can be played. In fact, the goal is to have a wide enough variety of appealing games that our guests can’t play all of them during their current visit. Having a wide variety of games and attraction types is critical to bringing back our guests more frequently.

Step Five – Adding New and Seasonal Social Gaming Experiences

It’s important to provide our guests with Social Gaming experiences that can be semi-easily added, swapped out between venues, or even provide a few seasonal Social Gaming experiences that can be introduced for a limited period of time.

The goal is to give our guests multiple reasons to come back for another visit to experience something new, different, or a seasonal game they haven’t seen since the prior year. 

Step Six – Offers that Encourage our Guests to Play a Variety of Social Gaming Experiences 

The goal is to have our guests experience two different Social Gaming experiences on every visit to our venue. The reason is to encourage our guests to play a game they haven’t tried before or a new one recently added. By trying new and different Social Gaming experiences, our guests may discover their new favorite game to play with their friends, family, coworkers, or group

To accomplish this goal, we need to provide our guests with a variety of  Social Gaming offers that encourage them to try our other gaming experiences. 

The six steps above are mechanisms that can provide our guests with powerful reasons to come back to our venues again and again to play and bond with their friends, family, coworkers, and groups.

Important note: For Social Bonding Gaming venues, all you can play offers are a horrible idea. It reduces the likelihood that our guests will return within a month because it over-exposes our guests to all of our Social Gaming experiences. In addition, it dramatically reduces the value and revenue potential of each experience we offer. 

3. Fast Casual Adult Drinking (seamlessly integrated into 1 and 2 above) 

Fast, casual, Adult Drinking service must be fully integrated into our Social Gathering Spaces and Social Gaming Areas. This needs to be done using integrated online ordering software that enables our guets to use their smartphones in their reserved social gathering space or gaming areas. 

As our guests move from one gaming area or social gathering space to another, their bar and food tabs must easily move with them. Using our Center Manager Pro software our guests are able to open their existing tab and order additional food and beverage. Prior to their order being processed they are prompted to type in the table number they have moved to.

Why does fast casual Adult Drinking have its own section? More specifically, why isn’t it combined with Eating? Because outside of normal eating times (lunch and dinner), the amount of food sales typically drop, but the Adult Drinking revenue stays the same or even goes higher during non-eating times. It’s important that we figure out the best ways to elevate the Adult Social Drinking part by providing a higher level fast casual service experience. 

4. Fast Casual Adult Eating (seamlessly integrated into 1 and 2 above) 

Fast casual Eating service must also be fully integrated into our Social Gathering Spaces and Social Gaming Areas. As described above for Adult Drinking, this should be done using the same integrated online ordering software that enables our guests to use their smartphones in their reserved social gathering space or gaming areas.

As staffing costs continue to rise, we need to design our venues to be as efficient as possible when it comes to providing a great fast casual drinking and eating experience. We can minimize staffing requirements while increasing the quality of our Fast Casual Adult Drinking and Eating service through the use of new and better software and hardware tools.

5. Staff Members who are Smart, Friendly, and Focused on providing our Guests with Great Social Bonding Experiences (none of the this works at a high level without a high quality team of people dedicated to making it all happen)

Staffing our venues with smart, friendly, and guest focused staff members has never been an easy task and, as we all know, it’s gotten a lot harder over the last few years. 

We have to learn how to operate our venues more efficiently. At the same time, it’s critical that we have staff members who are highly skilled at ensuring that our guests have the best social bonding experiences with their friends, family, coworkers, and groups.

As always, we get what we pay for. If we want the best staff members, we have to pay them more than our competitors are willing to pay. In order to pay more, we have to invest in the software and hardware tools that will help our staff members operate our venues more efficiently. The design and layout of our venues is also an important factor in how efficient our guest service will be. 

By continuously improving and upgrading our operational tools to streamline our services, we will enable our staff members to spend more of their time making sure our guests are having wonderful Social Bonding experiences within our venues. 

Ending on a High Note along with a Path that Leads to Another Social Bonding Visit

What is the best way to end our guests’ Social Bonding experience? And, how does the ending part lead them to booking another social bonding outing with their friends, family, coworkers, or group – and, if possible, how do we encourage them to reserve their next visit before they leave?

The goal for everything we do is to create great Social Bonding experiences for our guests and to work very hard at NEVER leaving anything to random luck. We have to figure out the best ways to design the required systems and tools that help us to ensure a great departure experience – one that ends on a High Note.

Personally, I don’t know what all the best answers are, but it really is something we have to think about and more importantly figure out. 

This is one of the reasons I write these articles, which are usually painful to write. The painful part is because I know we don’t have enough of the answers. Plus, it can be extremely difficult to figure out what is or is not working. Even when a supposedly great new idea or practice is implemented, it can be very hard to tell if or why it’s working because there are so many variables affecting the outcome. 

Even though the writing process is painful, it forces me to acknowledge the shortcomings of our Social Bonding model or whatever I’m writing about. By writing about the issues, it helps our team to identify the areas that need better solutions. Ultimately, it helps us to think deeper – it moves us down the path to figuring out how to achieve our goal, which is to create the best Social Bonding experiences for our clients’ venues as well as our own.

It’s critical that we spend the time and money to test new and updated solutions that will help us conclude our guests’ outings on a High Note. Ending on a high note is obviously very important and just as important as the beginning and middle parts. 

It’s important to note that we are not just talking about ending a birthday party or corporate group visit on a high note, it’s about all of our guests including two or three person groups who are visiting our venues to play Axe Throwing, Bowl, play Darts, or even if it’s just to hangout at the bar in the middle of all the people who make up their community – to bond on the fringes if you will. 

Here are some ideas to end on a High Note:

1. Provide our Staff Members with automated reminders when our guests are participating in their last Social Bonding experience and there is only 5 to 10 minutes remaining. The reminder will enable our Staff Members to take a minute to thank our guests for bringing their friends, family, coworkers, or group to our venue.

2. We also need to figure out the best methods to incentivize our guests to book their next visit by providing truly fantastic offers to return in less than 30 days. These offers have to have a 30 day (or less) expiration, these offers won’t work without an expiration.

It’s critical that we figure out friendly and effective ways to present these offers at the end of our guest’s visit. Doing it the best way possible will lead to a much higher percentage of repeat visits. 

3. Integrated systems are needed to effectively encourage our guests to come back in less than 30 days after they leave our venues. 

Our Center Manager Pro software has automated email tools that allow us to remind our guests that their FREE Social Gaming experience is going to expire in (x) days. These automatic emails can also provide our guests with a direct link to book their next outing. 

4. By providing our guests with the ability to return for another FREE Social Gaming experience, it’s likely that many of the guests in their group won’t be able to come back at the same time. 

In fact, the number who return is likely to be less than 20%*, but for those who do come back to play their FREE Social Gaming experience, they are likely to invite different friends or family members to come out to play with them. And, then those new friends or family members will be buying their own Social Gaming attraction pass. 

These new guests will also receive the same FREE bonus offer, which enables them to come back within a month to play another FREE Social Gaming experience. If they do come back, it’s likely they will be bringing a few new friends or family and the cycle repeats. 

The overlapping of FREE Social Gaming experiences helps us to increase the number of guests who invite their friends or family to return to our venues and more frequently. 

* By the way, we know that the less than 20% number is true, because our Center Manager Pro software tracks the number of guests who return within a month. What’s interesting is that our Most Popular offer, which is two Social bonding experiences, has a higher return visit percentage than our lower priced option, which only includes one Social Bonding experience. 

In Conclusion

While Social Gaming experiences like bowling have been around for a very long time, what is new is the rapidly growing variety of out-of-home venues that are focused on providing their guests with highly Social Bonding experiences. We believe this trend is going to rapidly grow over the next 10+ years. In fact, we are seeing this growth now from within the United States as well as new entries from other countries. 

While many of these Social Gaming experiences will be incorporated into existing entertainment venues, it’s likely that there will be a wide range of smaller entertainment venues opening up. These smaller venues will be much more focused on providing better and more personalized Social Bonding experiences, which will set their venues apart from the big box entertainment centers. 

It will be difficult for the big box entertainment centers to replicate the more personalized Social Bonding and Gaming experiences of these smaller venues. The main issue with trying to replicate what the smaller venues can do is the size and complexity of the big box centers. 

Chaos is Coming – Death by a Thousand Cuts

The rapid growth of out-of-home Social Bonding and Gaming venues is happening now. However, it’s not going to look or even operate like what has been built over the last 10 to 20 years. 

I think large venues that don’t dominate in at least one specific area (i.e. Bowling, Gokarts, Movies, etc.) are going to struggle to stay profitable, because the smaller and more nimble entertainment venues are going to be popping up everywhere. 

It won’t be one big entertainment center coming into another big entertainment center’s backyard (although that will certainly happen), it will be 10 or more smaller venues popping up within all the different communities that make up a city and surround the big box center. As each new venue opens, it will take another slice of revenue away from the big box center until its profitability completely disappears. 

This doesn’t mean smaller venues are going to have it any easier than the big box centers. Why? Because bars and restaurants are now looking to do the same thing that Bowling Centers and Movie Theaters have been doing, which is adding other types of entertainment to their venues. 

As we all know, there are tens of thousands of bars and restaurants. If only 10% enter the out-of-home entertainment market, it’s going to get very bloody for everyone. 

As always, the ones who survive and thrive will be the ones who evolve the fastest. 

Thanks for reading!

Jim Kessler 

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