Recently Kevin Williams, publisher of The Stinger Report, an ezine that covers the digital out-of-home interactive entertainment industry, contacted me and several other industry leaders and asked about our take on the future of location-based entertainment and digital out-of-home entertainment. Following was my response:
When we talk about the digital out-of-home market, it covers an extremely broad range of location-based entertainment venues. Our company’s focus is on the community-based models, commonly referred to as family entertainment centers, which is an unfortunate categorization, as the industry also includes children’s- and adult-type venues.
As I have been writing over the past few years, I think the trouble with a large segment of the industry is that it focuses too much on the entertainment equipment, whether it be the games or the attractions, and fails to understand the significance of what drives guests to seek an out-of-home experience, which is far more about socialization than the entertainment. Entertainment only facilitates out-of-home socialization; it is not the end all.
I have been writing about the importance of food, as it can be a major differentiator for the out-of-home versus at-home entertainment experience. We know food is a motivator of why people leave their homes, multiple times more than they do for entertainment. Food and drink is the real social network of the ages; it is the ageless bonding agent that connects family and friends. If we just look at movie-going versus destination dining, having a sit-down meal in a restaurant, the destination dining drives 17 times the attendance. Marry entertainment that facilitates socialization with great food and drink in a great atmosphere (another factor most venues fail to properly focus on) with great guest service and you have a winning combination for community-based venues.
As far as digital goes, I believe the future of out-of-home entertainment is in its ability to extend the experience in both time and place into the virtual world as well as using technology to enhance the bricks-and-mortar experience.
Kevin is more than correct with his thoughts that LBEs have to be ‘unachievable@home’ (a term Kevin coined). However, there is more to it than that. It also has to be compelling enough for people to expend their time, effort and expense to leave the comfort of their caves and all its digital and far less expensive entertainment options.
The future is bright for community-based entertainment and dining venues. But the formula that works is no longer the carnival in a box. It’s all about a fully integrated social experience where the ‘entertainment’ is only one part of the formula and not necessarily the key driver of attendance.