FROM BILLIARDS TO E-SPORTS
How much money do you need to maintain rollerdrome and in what city do the most devoted fans of rollers live? The CEO of the Indoor Amusement Parks, LLC Pavel Timets told about it to the Ponedelnik magazine.
— Pavel, your team builds and starts entertainment centers across all Russia for 15 years how did the entertainment market change during this time?
— In the late 1990s, there were not amusement parks and cinemas in a number and a form, as now. The market has developed in conditions where an offer gave rise to demand. Institutions with a few game machines and a couple of pool tables were novelty. People came, played and went in a rave. There were many visitors to play billiard so they registered in a queue. Over time, such entertainment gained real popularity, bowling clubs, clubs with laser battles, paintballs began to open. The breakthrough happend at the beginning of zero when the first modern shopping centers appeared. Interest was such that owners could not take the lease area under entertainment. There were already enough visitors.
Gradually, number of shopping centers grew, and shopping has become one of the ways to spend free time. Western companies, and local developers have realized that not only shops but also great locations, entertainments, movie theaters, food court areas are an «anchor» that can attract visitors. And exactly them were required to complete the concept. Then shopping centers grew in shopping and entertainment centers. So comfortable environment appeared for indoor amusement parks.
— What requests were 15 years ago and what is on trend now?
— Billiards was on trend at development dawn. Eventually championship transferred to bowling. Now the focus has shifted towards eSports and virtual reality. In many respects it is promoted by the fact that the eSports was recognized as an official sport this year. Now it outperforms many other disciplines on growth rates.
— How do you choose attractions and activities which will be available at the amusement park?
— At exhibitions we study what attracts interest in the professional environment — what new products people come testing. It allows to predict popularity of the attraction. Also the choice is influenced by sizes and handling capacity of the equipment.
For «all inclusive» format (when a guest buying a single ticket is get access to all entertainment) the equipment reliability and durability are paramount importance. It is important that attractions didn’t break and didn’t fail. We have an unsuccessful experience of pinball game devices mounting. Despite popularity of this game among guests, we have to refuse these automatic machines as an employee who constantly would be engaged in their repair was required.
In entertainment centers there are rollerdromes, so, and roller skates which quickly break, too. Service life of rollers is six-eight months. Cost of rollers skate is around five thousand rubles. We change a roller skates park every six months. About one million rubles a year is paid to change the park. However, despite the need for frequent replacement of equipment, we do not refuse the rollerdrome. It’s a large audience, which is important to keep for us. For example, Peter is the city of scooters. Active roller movement is here but summer is short. Places where you can ride all year around are not enough. Therefore, the service is attractive for visitors even in the context of its uniqueness.
Equipping our park, we consider popularity and attractions demand - the autodrome leads on these indicators. In spite of the fact that this is expensive pleasure in respect of servicing, demand is high for it. Bowling doesn’t lose popularity, too. It is one of the most expensive sports and entertainments provided in our parks. Here the «buffet» effect works when people choose the most expensive. The generation that found an hour for a game for 600–1000 rubles first of all goes to bowling paths. The youth belongs already more simply. They are more interested in laser fights (Q-zar). I think, it is explained by game team spirit. Competitive devices, for example, Derby Games attraction is popular. However, guests change «favorites» but our main feature remains invariable. We attract visitors not some specific attraction but our assortment, scale and atmosphere. We have entertainments for every taste.
— Whether happens that any platforms of your amusement park don’t shoot, are unclaimed and only take place after opening? How can you foresee interests of public that not to allow it?
— Everything is learned in the empirical way. Striking example is billiards that didn’t go in the Smolensk entertainment center. There was no interest from managing directors, besides game culture isn’t developed there. But we left this direction and we develop it.
Still example: we had Dinozavriya animatronic children’s zone in «Leader». Huge dinosaurs who moved, opened a mouth, blinked and talked. We decided that it will create a furor, but expectations weren’t met. In new entertainment centers we refused Dinozavriya. We have children’s zones, rooms of birthday boy/girl, but it is not the main direction. Also over time we reduced quantity of darts — they weren’t so popular as we thought.
— For certain some technical innovations such as 7D-movie theater, augmented reality glasses constantly appear in the market. How do you decide what modern technological entertainments will be in your park?
— I observed development of movie theaters from 3D to 7D and even 9D. I can tell that all this is a marketing mix. Except change of digitals, there are no considerable changes. A basic equipment — stereo glasses, a mobile platform, video and sound were initially. Further additional effects — wind whiff, water splashes — were added.
Choosing innovations for amusement parks, we first of all attend professional exhibitions. There we look for the most interesting then to test in one of our entertainment centers. If the equipment becomes popular, we equip with it other parks.
For autumn I already planned two international exhibitions. At first in China, and then in Orlando that is the world center of amusement parks. So, soon the range of our centers will be replenished with innovations.
— Whether do you update structure of entertainments in already built parks that people had an opportunity to try new?
— In each park we create at least one new entertainment a year. The managing director of each entertainment center is responsible for it. The last innovations are a mirror labyrinth in Kazan and Time Freak in Smolensk. Time Freak is a room where buttons light up in a chaotic order on which players press at a speed. Surprisingly, but this game is pleasant to both children, and adults.
— How do you calculate handling capacity of the park? Many people can come and the queue in which nobody will want to stand will be built?
— We don’t limit entrance to an amusement park. Guests use the single entrance ticket and therefore there is a natural distribution of guest flows. If the queue was built on an attraction and people don’t want to stand in it, they go to other activities. Due to the center is filled regularly. For those who preferred to remain in a queue we put screens with interactive games or interesting video.
— Whether requests and preferences of guests did change because of the crisis? They say, people began to cut down their entertainment budget.
— The ticket price is fixed, and it didn’t change. But food and drinks which can be purchased in the territory of the amusement park aren’t included in this price. It is the related service which is provided by entertainment centers. Guests began to save on food. Due to an average bill decreased.
— Pavel, as you in specialty are connected with statistics, you planned to work in construction, but as a result you are in entertainment industry. Tell how did you come to it when and how did you understand that development of entertainment centers is that what you want to be engaged?
— A part of our work is construction and management of entertainment centers therefore I nearby avoided profile education. I worked as an assembler in my father’s company during study at institute. Then I understood that I want to be on my feet and follow my inclinations. At that time, I «was fan» of billiards. It also predetermined my choice. I got a job as a seller of equipment in a billiard shop. So interest in the sphere of entertainments arose. This job was not standard, I work in evenings and nights. I was affected with a magic image by the aura soaring around billiard sport. This game community which lives under its laws and rules. By that moment when we opened billiard rooms across all St. Petersburg, I was already the head of the shop. Restaurants, bars worked in this institutions, then we opened night club, further a bowling. And that’s all, I was engaged.
— Pavel, tell about your favorite activities what do you prefer to play in your own entertainment centers?
— I, as before, like billiards, and different types of it- pool, pyramid, snuker. But, unfortunately, opportunity to play is seldom issued. Still I love Q-zar and a kicker (table football).
— What, in your opinion, does distinguish your company from others? What are your mission, corporate culture, values?
— Our mission is to help young people to find friends, to build relations and to feel happy. Our values are freedom, friendship, team and vivid impressions. Broadcast of values is at all levels. Since that moment when guests cross a threshold of our entertainment center and finishing the way in which we build up relationship in our company. We communicate on first-name terms among ourselves. It facilitates working relations and helps team building, besides beginners join team easier in this way. Employees are friends for each other, but not colleagues or subordinates. A special term buddy is entered into a job title that is meant a «friend». For example, I am called as leader buddy, and an instructor-coordinator is game buddy. Aspiration to self-development and professional growth are encouraged. In Fun24 in Kazan there is a book club with the latest offers in business literature. The company gives an opportunity to pass training, seminars or education to its employees who show desire. Periodically we organize days of self-government when employees change workplaces. Colleagues provide master classes, trainings for each other. It is only a small part of our corporate secrets. The list is so wide that we created the corporate code for each entertainment center. It is received by all newcomers of the company.
— How do you watch your visitors’ safety? Whether were there cases of injuries and what do you do in this case?
— Attractions are certified and conform to all quality standards and safety requirements. Skilled instructors-coordinators are trained in safety rules taking into account operating intricacies for each attraction. But as we have a place of active recreation, it is absolutely impossible to avoid injuries. It is rather heavy to protect a person from fall on rollers therefore incidents nevertheless sometimes happen. Purchasing a ticket, a guest agrees with the public offer where the insurance is included. If in the territory of the amusement park the guest gets any injuries, the insurance company will pay treatment.
— You have quite original format — indoor entertainment centers. And whether do you have direct competitors and if you have, what is your difference in?
— There are no similar products in the market. There were attempts to copy our format, but it was unrewarded by success. As to separate institutions, for example, bowling clubs or billiard rooms, they are not direct competitors. Perhaps, they are competitors of bowling and billiards which are in our centers. But the range of entertainments is so wide that they aren’t terrible for the indoor amusement park.
— Your centers are built in St. Petersburg, Kazan and Smolensk, do public and range of entertainments differ in them? If do, that how?
— Culture of entertainments was initially developed in St. Petersburg. We have to impart it in other cities. The biggest children’s zone that was designed initially is in Smolensk. Due to families with children the target audience strongly extended. A kernel of target public is youth in St. Petersburg and Kazan. In respect of the range of entertainments distinctions are not enough, no more than 10%.