It's all about creating social bonding experiences

Our previous eNewsletters have featured articles about 'competitive socializing' venues, or what might be a better fit, 'socialized gaming.' Now along comes Jim Kessler (owner of LASERTRON that operates two LBE venues in New York and manufactures and installs lasertag arenas and ax throwing, and offers center software) with an article that hits the nail right on the head. He writes that it is really all about creating a 'social bonding' experience.

We feel his article is so good, we're reprinting parts of it here.

Extracts from What's most important to the success for a social, gaming, drinking and eating venue? by Jim Kessler

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.

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, Go-karts, 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.

You can access Kessler's entire article on social bonding here (scroll down page for article).

Additional reading