#1152 – Immersive Entertainment Shines in Orlando – Part 7

This marks the Seventh and final-part of this comprehensive International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA’22) convention coverage.

The importance of licensing in the amusement mix was also underscored by Apple Industries, holding their 9th annual Keynote Breakfast that they have held to bring operators and show attendees up to speed on the latest developments from the photo capture specialists. The company revealed an exclusive licensing agreement with NASCAR auto racing entertainment brand – the licensing agreement coinciding with the 75th anniversary in 2023, of one of the most popular supported sports in the world. The company developing specialist livery photobooths, based on their platform incorporating the franchise, (one such example on the show booth), complimenting their already established Disney and Marvel Comics property machines. At the same time the Faceplace range saw the entry of a new platform with the launch of ‘Photoma’ photo booth line, offering futuristic lines and LED displays, all supported by the ‘SmileOS’ software package. All on an exhibition booth that reflected the new corporate rebranding, winning an IAAPA Brass Ring award for their efforts.

An aspect of the amusement sector has been the appearance of Social Entertainment – as reported previously in this extensive IAAPA coverage several competitive socializing chains have started to move on North America. At the same time the creation of a Frictionless payment and guest engagement environment has seen an explosion in the use of smart payment and customer relationship platforms focused on the sector. At IAAPA’22 Intercard and FEC Financial Group have teamed up to serve the arcade and FEC market by providing the best in cashless technology and credit card processing services.

Semnox Solutions exhibited at the Orlando show presenting their latest Wireless debit cards and readers, their updated POS platforms including Inventory support, waiver generation, Self Service Kiosks, party booking, and customer app. Exhibitor Sacoa Cashless, building on their revenue management systems for the amusement, entertainment, and leisure industries, launched three new solutions for their platform, these represented the ‘Kiosk Shopping Cart’, along with the ‘QR Code Scanning’ functionality for the Sacoa Kiosk, and finally the integration with the ‘Ordyx’ full restaurant system. A rounded package for the modern operator needing to maximise their payment and collection infrastructure.

The term “Frictionless” took on many new aspects at these years show, we have already douched on the use of machine learning in autonomous ride and robots, but also the latest AI was seen in deployment in the amusement and attraction scene regarding guest services and operator data collection. EMBED with their cashless payment infrastructure, launched ‘Stats’ a platform powered by Amazon Web Services (AWS), provides data visualisation dashboards to help FEC operators transform guests’ experiences. This will not be the last time we see the AWS platform deployed in entertainment application.

Overview

The IAAPA’22 event would open with a great presentation from the new entertaining President, and an attempt on a World Record for the number of “Party Poppers” launched at one time. While this attempt was being undertaken, the doors were thrown open to the show. Clearly lighter in attendance in previous years, there was still a strong opening day attendance.

New Shape of Show!

One of the major omissions from the IAAPA show formular was the tented outside exhibition space. The 2021 show had not included this due to the reduced show attendance following the slow return following the Global Health crisis, but this years’ event seemed to confirm the removal of this approach all together. Other changes on the show floor included the clearer segmentation of the different elements (pavilions) of the show hall representing attractions and amusement as well as Show Production, Operational Services, and Inflatables – this also included the return of the Food & Beverage Pavilion started last year. Outside there was a smaller presence of exhibits (no more tents), but the real surprise on the show floor was the perfusion of “massage chair” exhibitors – seeming to be used as space fillers by the organizers.

The other changes were more incidental. One of those being the removal of the International Lounge, replaced by IAAPA Members Lounge. Another noticeable change was the slow shrinkage of the media lounge, as the reality of the needs of legacy media over internet and influencers continued to be exacted. An aspect of the trade that is suffering the hardest seems to be the trade media. A culmination of the slow death of print media, the “Advert-Apocalypse” hitting all media of late (as previously reported), and reader retention in an online age, has seen several once stalwart trade publications vanish from our letterboxes. It was revealed during the show that another publication was about to close its doors, with the last issue of ‘Tourist Attractions and Parks’ (TAP) magazine ending its run. The publisher of The Stinger Report is one of many that has supplied features for the service over the years, so this comes as hard news. We would like to wish all those involved success in their next endeavours.

Consolidation, Partnerships, and Acquisitions

One the IAAPA’22 show floor, consolidation and partnerships seemed to be the watchword. This represents a familiar process in the industry, during the time of economic upheaval, the joining of forces offering a stronger bulwark towards securing projects and weathering storms. Many who have weathered the economic storm before are more than aware that the leisure entertainment sector is “recession resilient”, especially in a climate of “staycation”, and it is expected that regional entertainment will continue to grow in investment as belts are tightened towards previous theme park vacation spending.

Off the IAAPA floor and the news continued of the consolidation of the FEC sector, with the news that three ‘Craig’s Cruisers’ locations in Michigan, had been acquired by Five Star Parks and Attractions, this was the latest investment by the company towards consolidating their 19 facility chain operation of FEC’s and restaurants, which includes ‘The Track’, ‘LazerPort Fun Center’, ‘Celebration Station’, ‘Xtreme Racing Center’, and recently acquired ‘Malibu Jack’s’ chains. Five Star Parks and Attractions first started in 1979 and has recently started a dedicated move towards establishing a major presence in their territory.

New Shape of Marketing

With the news of the loss of another well respected B2B media outlet to the amusement and attraction trade, many exhibitors and industry members were under pressure regarding where they get their industry news. The amass of web-based news sites, as well as the likes of email newsletters (this one included), have seen a massive uptake in readership. Partly fuelled by the much speculated “death of print media”.

Regarding social media, the amusement trade, like much of the world has been caught up in the issues surrounding the used of social media channels for the collection of their news and views. While Meta (previously Facebook) has been rocked by internal developments, and a migration of users, the platform Twitter has been embroiled in controversy and equally high departure rates of major corporations from supporting the platform. Most of this surrounding the controversy of the new owner of the platform. This has seen many industry members reverting to Linkedin for most of their industry interactions. 

However, sources close to The Stinger Report reveal that there seems to be ongoing discussions behind closed doors for the formation of a new media service to supply information to international amusement and attraction professionals. A service that would offer both online and print media coverage. We will attempt to report more details once they are known. 

XR Rules the Roost

Those that have made it to the end of this monster coverage will notably be struck by the number of XR platforms that were represented across the attractions, waterpark, FEC, amusement and entertainment offerings. Of some 1,080 exhibitors a majority of these had some form of VR, AR or MR system in development, or being released. This is amazing how quickly this technology has become a prominent part of the industry. An industry in many cases still coming to grips regarding what this means for the future of the sector. For many it is hard enough to embrace interactive entertainment than to have to make the mental jump to what media-based attractions using gamification and XR technology will mean to future development and investment.

One thing is for sure that there is little chance that the application of XR across the sector is a fad that will “hopefully go away”. Those longing for a return to what some may call “normal” seems incredibly unlikely, and more over the amusement and attraction industry seems to be on the cusp of a major revolution in the development and deployment of entertainment medium into the sector. As seen with the creation of new IP divisions within Sony, Universal, and many others the use of franchise and branded content within the XR space will be part of a new sub-section of the trade that could prove a massive revenue generator. At the same time, we see the deployment of the first “Machine Learning” applications that will surely have an impact on the decision process in game development – a bright new future awaits.   

The China Question

One of the major omissions from the convention floor was that of delegates and exhibitors from China. While some Japanese attendees and the obvious Korean Pavilion were in evidence, Chinese attendance was significantly impacted. This following the previous cancellation of IAAPA Asia – the continued “Zero COVID Policy” directed by the Chinese Communist Party having seriously impacted the ability for many corporations to make the US trade event, while mired in a new round of lockdowns.

The removal of most Chinese VR manufacturers from exhibiting seemed not to have been as hard felt as some had speculated. The reality of the market was such that an over abundance of development from Western manufacturers had removed any possible limitations. More there was a move by operators that had previously purchased Phase One VR systems that came from this territory, to move onto the newer systems, and so alleviate the issues of spares and support that had vanished for their Chinese purchases. Or revert to Chinese manufacturers with established Western agents and suppliers. 

In conclusion – This years’ show was important to our publisher, more than just a return to a full physical show, and seeing old friends, this marked the 29th year of attending the US event give or take a few absences. The first time visited in 1993 when the show was in Los Angeles and was a marathon still, but one filled with wonder. None of the wonder has evaporated, nor has the sore feet after trapsing the show floor!

The organizers of IAAPA 2022 stated that the 500,000-sq.,ft., convention floor attracted 36,000 registered attendees to the see some 1,077 exhibitors companies. 2021’s claimed 28,229 registered attendees, to see the 878 exhibitors. The show organizers originally claiming the exhibition number for 2022 being up more than 25-per-cent on last year. The feeling on the show floor was a return to pre-COVID numbers, and a very strong showing with questions on how long before IAAPA returns to the halcyon days of sub-40,000 registration numbers.

For the media covering the show it was another herculean task, and this year’s event was exacerbated by a catch-up by many exhibitors, with the organizers revealing that there were over 30 press conferences organized during the four days of the show. It was impossible for anyone to attend all of them. The mountain of announcements also pointed to a new thinking in the amusement and attraction scene, with more IP, and more immersive interactive technology being deployed. The 2022 show representing what had been speculated in our 2021 coverage, with the expected “post-pandemic bounce”. But also, this year’s show had the storm clouds of major financial upheaval on the horizon, and the need to embrace a “Staycation” mentality.

As has been said in previous coverage of the industry, the privations of the 2020 Global Health crisis have also been felt driving a new level of innovation in the sector. The establishment of “Frictionless” payment that had been hindered in adoption by the trade was forced on the industry. Likewise, the need for cost-effective service and support, and the impact of the employment shortfall has seen many new practices that would have been blocked finally adopted. At the same time the need for the attraction trade to defend its position and innovate rather than stagnate has seen the final embracing of media-based and interactive attractions – and early-requirements and job changes for many that found these technologies difficult to accept.

The momentous level of change anticipated for 2023 by the appearance in the West of the ‘Universal Studio Super Nintendo World’ resorts in both California and Florida, was an approaching harbinger of the massive changes expected to impact the industry. Along with the embracing of major IP from the digital entertainment sector, the attractions at the new parks reliance on immersive technology and interactivity was forcing the other parks and resorts to seriously evaluate adopting similar approaches, and the interest on the IAAPA’22 show floor towards these technologies was more than obvious. Where in previous years this level of engagement had been kept at arm’s length.

Regarding the deployment of IP into the theme park scene, Nintendo’s entry was hoped by the corporations to grow a brand new appreciation of their Global presence. In a statement, the corporations President stated that their IP now extended by just videogames with the new motion picture ‘The Super Mario Bros. Movie’ in 2023, along with merchandising, and theme park investments. The company had started a new effort branded “building a relationship” aimed at gamers through movies, merchandising and rides – with the Nintendo also looking at LBE interests through several new projects in development. Greater brand recognition encouraging sales, and diversity ensuring protection in an expected slowing in consumer videogame sales following record achieved during COVID lockdowns.

That concludes our coverage of IAAPA 2022 – next years the show will be held during 14-17 of November 2023. We look forward to this event with a special excitement in sharing our 30th IAAPA anniversary in 2023 with all that will be there. We would like to thank those that helped in compiling this information and those supporting the event organizers and thank all those that stopped to chat during this years’ event.

About the author

Kevin Williams

More posts

The brainchild of two location-based experience enthusiasts, Christine Buhr and Brandon Willey, the LBX Collective aims to inform and educate, create opportunities to connect with industry peers, and to spur collaboration, discourse, and cross-pollination of ideas.

Join the Podcast Crew

Are you a location-based entertainment or family entertainment center subject matter expert? 

Do you have specific knowledge, ideas, successes or failures that you want to share with the LBC Collective community?

Request to join our LBX Collective Podcast Crew

0%

Login to enjoy full advantages

Please login or subscribe to continue.

LoginRegister

Go Premium!

Enjoy the full advantage of the premium access.

Login

Stop following

Unfollow Cancel

Cancel subscription

Are you sure you want to cancel your subscription? You will lose your Premium access and stored playlists.

Go back Confirm cancellation