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Demographic shift marks the rise of Social Entertainment Centres

Demographic shift marks the rise of Social Entertainment Centres
October 13, 2020

The transformation of the amusement arcades enjoyed by past generations to the family entertainment centres (FECs) of the current millennium is now seeing further evolution with the emergence of social entertainment centres (SECs).

As Roy Menachemson, Chief Executive of NBRC and co-founder of newly formed consultancy and advisory service Recreation Collective, explains “entertainment centres that hitherto catered to‘ families’ as their main consumer base have steadily been moving towards opening their demographic reach to include a wider group of consumers more attuned to the array of new attractions that combines with a strong food and beverage component to provide a great social experience that spans across generational borders.

“In line with this, operators are moving away from the ‘family’ connotation to a social description so that SECs will replace the more restrictive FECs by which these venues have become known.

“(Of course) there will still be venues that are designed specifically for families as their primary market but over time with the advent of a changing shift in presentation, we believe FECs will generically become known as SECs.”

With amusement arcades impacted by the rise of home-based console games during the 1980s and 1990s, the move to a move towards catering for a demographic that included young adults is often credited as having begun with the opening of Barcode at the then new Crown Casino complex in Melbourne in the late 1990s.

Barcode was a 'games bar' with new and ‘classic’ arcade games, pool tables, air hockey and pinball machines which players could play while consuming alcohol.

Other Barcode venues opened in new locations in the following years, including in New York’s Times Square in May 2000, while its concept was widely emulated with the arrival of locations such as Holey Moley Golf Clubs and the evolution of many tenpin bowling locations to include entertainment concepts.

The significance of the sector’s identification offering social entertainment centres is also explained by Ben Keenan, Principal of Melbourne creative branding consultancy The Thought Police, who notes “kids who have grown up with family entertainment centres are coming of age, and will never lose their love of games and immersive experiences.

“As they mature, so do the experiences we create. With vast amounts of socialising happening online, this generation craves a place to meet, to interact and play. Expertly constructed social entertainment centres aren't mere games and food, they are complete ‘worlds’ and will be the all-important attractor of customers to struggling retail and entertainment precincts.”

Zachary Pulman of UK-based Zachary Pulman Design Studio, which has set new standards for competitive social spaces (*competitive socialising) for the likes of Swingers Golf UK, TopGolf International, and has extensive expertise in retail and residential innovation, agrees with how SECs recognise a demographic shift.

He adds “we’ve seen a shift in demand from venues with a family-focus to those with a broader social-focus, particularly catering for experience-hungry Millennials and Gen Z.

“The so-called ‘Instagram generation’ value experience over ownership and competitive socialising provides share-able experiences that surprise and engage.

“Digital integration within gameplay connects the competitive socialising experiences with the customer’s digital world. Teamed with an evocative design aesthetic and challenging and rewarding playability it's a winning solution for the changing retail landscape.”

*Competitive socialising is the fast-growing sector catering for people going out and playing games with their friends, family and colleagues at a location that is serving speciality food and drink - combined with activities such as boutique bowling, mini/crazy golf, bingo, axe-throwing or pool. Some venues offer a mix of these attractions as well as arcade games, air hockey and other speciality activities.

Images: The popular Swingers West End competitive socialising venue in the UK by Zachary Pulman Studio (top) and arcade games at DEAL (below).

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21st April 2020 - LAI Games release revenue generating ideas guide for FECs

11th March 2020 - Amusements and attractions exhibitions in Dubai and Taiwan impacted by Coronavirus

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6th November 2015 - Australian and New Zealand FECs do battle for IAAPA Brass Ring Award

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