Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Japan catching Europe in active retail entertainment

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Keeping track of the disparate directions amusement entertainment is taking has become entertaining in its own right.

Image: Adobe Stock.

The active entertainment movement made its initial forays in Europe, but Japan appears to be catching up.

Major amusement equipment players in both Asia and Europe are riding hard on the retail facility business of late, portending a shift in focus that could easily spread to other parts of the globe and alter the amusement experience in interesting ways.

Branded stores emerge

One of the biggest indicators in Japan has been the near suspension of major international amusement releases for a focus on retail facility business, and the new evolution of entertainment site deployment. Gone are the traditional game arcades and Pachinko parlors, and we see the entrance of the entertainment venue — such as with the growth of Genda operations and new brand stores from Taito, Bandai Namco and others.

We received the full details on the story first broken with Genda’s listing on the Tokyo Stock Exchange. The company operates some 250 facilities within Japan under the GiGo brand and has interests in the U.S. with Enterrium, previously Pac-Man Entertainment, in Chicago.

Following the acquisition of the Sega facility operation and the Bandai Namco U.S. flagship entertainment site, Genda has grown as an example of the new style of amusement venue operation.

GiGo makes a statement

With a strong focus on the family and social dynamic, the GiGo brand stands for “get into the gaming oasis.” Genda has also invested in new active entertainment elements, such as its “Little Planet” children’s future active play concept.

Bandai Namco, for its part, recently formed a division to focus on the development and operation of sports entertainment facilities following the news of its new Bandai Namco Cross Store facility in London.

This follows the opening of Tondemi, an active entertainment brand in China during 2017, and by the VS Park brand that opened in 2018, and now with the digital playground brand, Adventure Island Docodoco.

Bandai Namco steps forward

With the news of the new division also came news of Bandai Namco’s plans to launch a new brand, Kobe Super Stadium, offering an active sports entertainment venue — planned to open in spring 2024.

Almost concurrently, CA Sega Joypolis Ltd. announced the opening of the first Joypolis sport brand active entertainment facilities.

The brand comprises several physical activities, such as projection tracked football, tennis and archery — also including a unique projection floor game called DIDIM, along with PC terminals for e-sports, trampoline and climbing walls. The venues even include Sega DartsLive installations, all part of a sports-focused venue business which the corporation plans to roll out.

Likewise, we have seen other Japanese amusement operators turn to this new entertainment model, such as with Capcom opening the Crazy BANeT chain, described as an “active sports entertainment” venue.

Pokémon tests the water

Pokémon Colours Yokohama, based on the role playing Pokémon game, has created an experimental exhibition combining four distinctive interactive activities within a single exhibition. The activities combine interactive projection experiences and physical activities based in the Pokémon universe.

The space includes merchandise and refreshments and is the latest Nintendo facility concept in partnership with the Pokémon Co.

Europe stays on board

Europe has also seen the growth of active entertainment venues embracing the latest technology.

In Belgium, Sparkx, Europe’s biggest self-styled entertainment sports theme park, recently opened. The 3,500-square-meter venue offers some 50 different sports physical activities sitting alongside recreations using AR and VR technology as well as tracked projection and digital screens.

Platforms like the ParadropVR from Frontgrid have been installed, along with archery and racing simulators. This approach to physical entertainment is a concept building off the back of activity and trampoline centers, but now includes a more sophisticated level of gamification.

Meanwhile, the Finish chain SuperPark has opened two venues in the Philippines, again offering several activity sporting style entertainments. All this underlines the growth of this trend.

Another element is the idea of offering pop-up active entertainment experiences linked with well-known IP, which has been gaining ground.

Keeping track of the disparate directions amusement entertainment is taking has become entertaining in its own rite.

(Editor’s note: Extracts from this blog are from recent coverage in The Stinger Report, published by Spider Entertainment and its director, Kevin Williams, the leading interactive out-of-home entertainment news service covering the immersive frontier and beyond.)

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