FECs and ROI: making your dollar go further, part 1

Chad Kunimoto explores tech trends in FECs and other indoor entertainment to help sustain novelty and boost your ROI

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Among the sectors hardest hit by the pandemic, the indoor entertainment business got some welcome news in late 2022. Research forecasts a CAGR of 10.9% to a value of US$69.5 billion by 2030.

According to the study, favourable youth demographics, a growing interest in AR, and new FECs that encourage participatory play are behind the recovery. Activities such as indoor climbing and bowling are becoming more popular. Meanwhile, themed stores and experiential dining are also evolving into destinations in their own right.

Demand for anchor attractions at new shopping centres is so high that some commercial property developers in Asia are launching their own branded FEC chains to boost the appeal of newly constructed malls, according to the report.

Keeping FECs fresh with new projection trends

But experts remind us that ongoing investment is necessary for sustaining profits. Of course, FECs depend more on repeat business from a local area than theme parks. This means that attendance can evaporate unless the attractions are refreshed.

Sports simulators deliver fantastic bang for your buck and, when powered by the right projector, are inexpensive to operate and easy to update

“Unfortunately, many franchisees get into the market with the mentality that this is quick money,” says Beth Chang, executive director of AECOM, author of a recent survey of the FEC business in China. “Consumers have a limited degree of loyalty to the brand, while FECs don’t look beyond three years per location.”

Investing in a media-based attraction that supports content updates without upgrading the hardware is one way to enhance ROI and extend novelty value. In this two-part feature, I’ll review the trends in this area. I’ll also explain why adding a tech partner to your team can help you meet the growing demand for memorable experiences.

Sports and game simulators

Easy to play and difficult to master, sports simulators are a cost-effective way to secure repeat business. Comprising IR emitters, cameras, projectors, and booths for gameplay, simulation systems can adapt flexibly to almost any spatial design, making them ideal for FECs.

As media-based attractions, they support various updateable game content without needing new hardware each time. Furthermore, sports and game simulators are moving toward competitive online play, with esport events emerging. This suggests new revenue channels for savvy operators to explore.

Golf simulation

Virtual golf is booming, with Big Swing Golf reporting a five-fold increase in commercial inquiries during the pandemic. Improved realism immerses players in a social atmosphere, earning the pastime a following among serious and casual players.


Real-time motion-tracking games

Beyond golf simulation, the advent of 240 Hz motion-tracking technology opens a world of possibilities for interactive AR games such as soccer, batting, and tennis. The tech can seamlessly project images onto fast-moving objects to be visible without headgear or glasses. Players can dive into the game without special instruction and enjoy a fun, sociable, and shareable experience.

Support for 240 Hz display frame rates is now available on budget-friendly 1-Chip DLP projectors but FEC operators should look for a design with filterless liquid-cooling systems and sealed optical engines to better resist the effects of dust.

Half-dome simulators

Half-dome systems are the perfect way to enhance immersion (especially for point-and-shoot games) and provide repeatable experiences with highly efficient operation, as they need only a single projector per dome. Panasonic Connect’s XR Lab also experimented with booths surrounding the player in a 360° sensory experience.

Projection in bowling centres and FECs

According to studies, Millennials are driving a revival in bowling in the US, where it’s the most popular indoor sport—60 million people play at least once a year.

Younger people are less interested in formal play, preferring social games, and that explains why hybrid bowling-based FECs are so popular. Atmosphere, variety, hospitality, and shareability are as crucial as the game itself. Projection on FEC’s walls, lanes, floors, and scoreboards enlivens interactive play and creates excitement.

Ice-skating rinks, roller-skating, and kart racing

Ice-rink surfaces can transform into canvasses for interactive games or immersive digital worlds. Beijing 2022 showed us what’s possible in this context with 4K projectors delivering phenomenal colour and resolution. Mapping is also a tight fit for kart-racing tracks, indoor skate parks, laser-tag mazes, or anywhere large images are needed to enhance immersion, gamify experiences, or deepen ambience.

Projection helps to bring indoor and sports climbing to FECs

With sport climbing making its official Olympic debut at Tokyo 2020 amid projections over the Aomi Sports Park climbing course, studies suggest the activity will grow at a CAGR of 12% by 2025, and indoor sports centres, gymnasiums, arcades, and FECs are rushing to add climbing walls to capitalize on the trend.

Indoor climbing is the perfect candidate for AR, with climbing-wall surfaces quickly transforming into screens for hybrid gameplay using projectors and sensors. As well as amping up the competitive atmosphere, it can help beginners develop skills without needing instruction. Players can be guided to the next handhold using projection, relaxing the learning curve for beginners.

High-brightness LCD laser projectors are perfect for this application. They deliver great dollar-per-lumen value with built-in colour and geometric adjustment for projecting onto uneven, textured, and coloured surfaces. Choose a product that doesn’t need light-source or filter maintenance to enjoy low TCO and high sustainability.

Being a physical activity, visitors to climbing gyms often pause for a rest and a drink, and this social aspect of the sport shouldn’t be overlooked. F&B integration, climbing games, and provision of other amusements are all ways to extend the visit duration.

Regardless of the scale of your FEC or indoor attraction—from indoor theme parks and media-based giants such as AREA15 to small owner-operator arcades—the need for flexible visual solutions and projection technology remains a top priority.

Stay tuned for Part 2, where we will cover trending tech for retailtainment, edutainment, and dining. In the meantime, to learn how co-creation with a technology partner can maximize your investment now and in the future, please click here or contact me via email.

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