We enjoy tracking location-based entertainment, including just about anything about family entertainment centers. The term used in out-of-home entertainment, “family entertainment center (FEC)” is difficult to define. There is the traditional use of the term that is typically meant to include a venue with several entertainment offerings. These typical offerings include miniature (mini putt) golf, a karting (go-kart) track, a video games arcade (usually with redemption), laser tag, bumper cars, and the like. Some FEC’s include batting cages, paintball, climbing walls, roller skating and virtual reality games in the arcade.
A characteristic of family entertainment center “things to do” is that the amusements are, almost without exception, off-the-shelf products from industry vendors. This is due simply to the scale of investment for FEC’s, that must match the limited customer support available in sub-regional markets.
Lately, outdoor recreation “adventure parks” have been adding guest activities while many FEC’s do likewise. Both of these location-based entertainment offerings seem to be evolving towards each other.
The FEC industry has included a large number of non-chain individually-owned venues. However, over the past decade or two we’ve seen industry consolidation of these independents and smaller chains.
As well, there have been attempts to create FEC’s based on well-known consumer brands (Legoland Discovery Centers, Club Disney, DisneyQuest), along with well-financed attempts to create multi-unit chains of all-new brands and intellectual property (Wannado City, GameWorks, Adventure Landing). The co-founder of our firm worked on several such branded FEC concepts while helming location-based entertainment at NBCUniversal Parks and Resorts Group. NBCUniversal was one of the backer’s of GameWorks at the time and (along with Sega and Steven Spielberg’s DreamWorks) was looking for additional consumer product licensing opportunities. The GameWorks venture allowed NBCUniversal a learning curve about family entertainment centers.
There are also a number of products that have been successful that can be included in the family entertainment center category, although some of these are just as appropriate when included in themed restaurants listings. Examples of such products are Chuck E. Cheese and Dave & Buster’s.