The Family Entertainment Center (FEC) sector has bounced back post-pandemic, with late-2022 research pointing to a CAGR of 10.9%, propelling its value to a projected US$69.5 billion by 2030.
The driving forces behind this revival are favorable youth demographics, the surging popularity of Augmented Reality (AR), and the ascent of interactivity. At the same time, themed retail and experiential dining venues have transitioned into destinations in their own right. In fact, the demand for anchor attractions is so strong that some mall developers in Asia are launching their own branded FEC chains, strategically enhancing the allure of newly established shopping centers.
Strategies for Sustained Novelty
However, experts stress that continued investment is necessary for securing profitability. FECs are heavily reliant on local repeat patronage, making them more susceptible to attendance declines than their theme park counterparts unless they refresh their offerings. To extend the appeal and save resources, investing in media-based attractions that facilitate content updates without hardware upgrades is a smart move. Let’s take a closer look at how trending technology can give FECs a new lease on life.
Sports and Game Simulators
Sports simulators offer an “easy to play, difficult to master” avenue that pulls guests back in. These versatile simulation systems incorporate IR emitters, cameras, projectors, and play booths adaptable to diverse configurations. As digitally driven attractions, they allow for the inclusion of varied game updates without hardware overhauls, saving time, money, and resources. Notably, sports and game simulators are transitioning towards competitive online play, as seen in the emergence of eSport events.
Get in the Swing: Golf Simulation
Virtual golf has undergone a renaissance, with Australia’s Big Swing Golf franchise reporting a five-fold upswing in commercial inquiries during the pandemic. Enhanced realism has engendered an immersive yet social atmosphere, endearing the pastime to both dedicated players and casual visitors. The advent of 240 Hz motion-tracking technology from Panasonic Connect heralds new prospects for these kinds of interactive AR games. This innovative tech projects content seamlessly onto rapidly moving objects and avoids the need for headgear or glasses. Players can immerse themselves without the steep learning curve, fostering sociable, shareable, and repeatable encounters. This technology is within reach of small enterprises with select 1-Chip DLP™ projectors supporting 240 Hz frame rates via our Real-Time Tracking Projection-Mapping SDK.
Half-domes are a great way to amplify immersion, particularly for point-and-shoot games. These setups deliver consistently and efficiently, demanding just a single projector per dome. Recently, Panasonic Connect’s XR Lab has been experimenting with booths that envelop guests in a 360° sensory experience, but with built-in screen correction, you can project onto virtually any curved or complex surface.
Bowling-Centric Family Entertainment
In the US alone, 60 million people partake in bowling at least once annually. A preference for informal play among younger people is at the root of this resurgence. The ambiance, diversity, and shareability offered by these venues are just as important as the game itself. The infusion of projections onto walls, lanes, and scoreboards amplifies engagement, fostering a heightened sense of excitement. Similarly, ice-skating rinks, roller-skating, and kart racing courses can be transformed by projections. As evidenced in Beijing 2022, 4K projectors breathe life into old formats. Mapping can extend to kart-racing tracks, indoor skate parks, escape rooms, and laser-tag mazes, transforming spaces into interactive canvases that enhance immersion.
Scaling New Heights: Indoor Sports Climbing
Indoor sports facilities, gyms, arcades, and soft-play centers have capitalized on the interest in sports climbing by incorporating climbing walls. AR projection is a perfect fit, with wall surfaces morphing into dynamic screens for hybrid gameplay using sensors. Projection-guided routes relax the learning curve, guiding novices toward the next handhold. LCD projectors are optimal here, offering a lot of lumens per dollar and stable, low-maintenance operation. Given that visitors often pause for breaks, the sociable facet of the experience shouldn’t be underestimated. The integration of F&B services and supplementary entertainment all contribute to extending the visit duration.
Shopping as Entertainment
While FECs adeptly adapt to heightened expectations, parallel industries, including retail and dining spaces, are also forging connections with patrons through media. Beyond tactile engagement—the ability to touch and assess products—shoppers want entertainment. A 2022 report reveals that one in three consumers now go shopping as a means of escaping routine life. Notably, the yearning for entertainment surpasses practical considerations such as accessibility, according to the report. Here, images can narrate stories, start conversations, encourage interaction, deliver information, and curate the perfect atmosphere. Projection’s adaptability, augmented by lighting, sound, and even scent, offers a multisensory marketing approach. The good news is that implementing a dynamic backdrop doesn’t need a big budget. Portable Ultra Short Throw projectors, capable of projecting immersive widescreen visuals and interactive content from less than an inch away for eye-catching, shadow-free merch displays.
Many malls boast outdoor dining zones, play spaces, and grand entrances, providing prime canvases for media entertainment encounters. Through outdoor projection mapping, these areas can transform into local landmarks with a carnival-like ambiance. Collaborating with a technology partner such as Panasonic Connect to refine the spatial design before selecting hardware solutions promises more impactful results and can resolve unanticipated installation challenges.
Edutainment and Family Engagement
The US$1.5 billion edutainment sector resonates with parents seeking entertaining platforms that also facilitate their children’s development. Innovations like merging basketball with English lessons, as witnessed in China, illustrate how unconventional ideas can set businesses apart. Visuals are catalysts for experiences that build on children’s innate affinity for tactile engagement. Projections seamlessly adapt to diverse surfaces such as 3D shapes, floors, and ceilings, allowing for unencumbered creativity. Given the close viewing range of interactive visuals, image resolution becomes paramount, and so compact 4K projectors equipped with Ultra Short Throw lenses are really taking off.
The food service industry’s volatile nature means restaurants, bars, and nightclubs must perpetually seek strategies for attracting clientele. Transformative ideas often attract widespread attention. Tabletop projection and mini-mapping serve as prime illustrations. Le Petite Chef by Dutch company Skullmapping underscores that impact doesn’t hinge on scale but rather on ingenuity. A whimsical animated chef materializing on diners’ plates to prepare their food garnered viral acclaim.
Projection’s Versatile and Expansive Potential
Projectors can elevate the ambiance even in smaller-scale events like birthdays, pop-up stores, or functions. Whether through enchanting table-mapping escapades, wall projections that unveil glimpses of the world, or dynamic signage that tells stories, projection remains an efficient way to capture attention. Through collaboration with tech partners and strategic spatial design, you can ascend to new heights in concept and execution while sustainably extending novelty. Discover how Panasonic Connect’s expertise can optimize your investment—explore further by mailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Chad Kunimoto is the Global Business Development Manager for Themed Entertainment and Immersive Experiences at Panasonic Connect