What do your parents, grandparents, and King Henry VIII of England have in common? They all played the game of bowling. New generations continue to discover bowling, which has redefined itself in recent years by becoming an anchor attraction for family entertainment centers (FECs).
QubicaAMF Worldwide has been at the forefront of bowling innovations with its BES X Bowler Entertainment System designed to maximize the appeal of bowling; exclusive new Mad Games (Monster Factory, Character Factory, Bowlin’ Hood, and Battle on the Lanes); YouToons, where bowlers take their photo on the SuperTouch LCD bowler console and merge those images into the scoring animations; themed birthday party graphics; and the scaled down, Highway 66 mini-bowling with redemption capability that provides exceptional revenue per square foot.
QubicaAMF Worldwide has headquarters in Mechanicsville, Va. and European headquarters in Bologna, Italy. The company is a one-stop shop for bowling and mini-bowling products, including: Scoring and Management Systems, Pinspotters, Lanes and Lane Care supplies, reconfigurable Furniture solutions, House Balls and Rental shoes. Many products are turn-key.
The company represents the combined talents of Qubica Italy, established in the early ‘90s and known for its automated scoring systems, and AMF Bowling Products, the American company known for the first automated pinspotter that revolutionized bowling in the early ‘50s. The two merged in 2005. (See the sidebar on QubicaAMF history.)
QubicaAMF has sold, serviced, and installed bowling products in over 10,000 centers in 90 countries.
Moreover the company has installed worldwide more than 3,000 Highway 66 mini-bowling lanes, making it the product that defines the mini-bowling attraction category by itself.
Play Meter spoke with Riccardo Cuppi, QubicaAMF Performance Equipment and Highway 66 Product Manager and Rosa Katz, Senior Product Manager of Business Consultancy, Services and Solutions to find out about the current state of bowling, new products, and the secrets to its success.
–What changes have you seen in the types of locations that have added bowling in the last five years?
In terms of type of locations we have seen the following changes:
- In Downtown and Metropolitan areas – development or remodeling of centers combining bowling and a few attractions with up-scaled F&B offering and a more VIP experience.
- In Suburban Areas – traditional bowling centers adding more attractions and changing their business model to become bowling entertainment centers. These locations are interested in adding more variety and options for their customers and wanting to attract more parties and groups.
- At the same time we have seen FECs without bowling, now adding it, especially the ones that have both indoor and outdoor activities and want to add a solid indoor anchor.
In terms of sites we have seen less development of brand new buildings and more conversions of empty shells made available from the crisis of retail- like grocery stores or shopping centers – and we are seeing both that these facilities are included within these centers, or can be on the perimeter of the center.
–Why has bowling maintained its appeal with players?
Bowling is a very versatile activity and appeals to people of all ages and skill sets – from the amateur to the skilled competitor or professional. It is an activity that everyone can and wants to do. There are several reasons why this is:
Main Reason 1 – Bowling offers a mix of ingredients like Competition, Fun, Socialization and Relaxation. There are not many other entertainment options that offer this all in one.
Main Reason 2 – Bowling is a group activity – great for families, companies, social groups, etc. – while many other entertainment attractions are more an individual experience.
Main Reason 3 – Bowling has evolved and the bowling experience has drastically improved thanks to the technology innovation and products designed with today consumers in mind. And QubicaAMF has been at the forefront of this.
–What types of locations are adding Highway 66 mini-bowling?
Mainly FECs and also bowling entertainment centers, but we are seeing an increasing number of other kind of commercial properties adding it as well. This includes cinemas, bars and restaurants, hotels and resorts and more.
–How many lanes of Highway 66 mini-bowling are usually requested; do they coexist next to traditional bowling lanes?
Two (2) lanes is the average request for game rooms and/or arcades, while four to six (4-6) lanes is the average when a better dedicated space is available or they are looking to create a VIP space and experience. As said before, we also have seen Highway 66 installed at bowling entertainment centers. It offers a more casual, easy and fast experience for customers that are waiting for their lane on crowded weekends, or for customers that are looking for a more casual experience than the traditional 10 pin bowling.
–Will QubicaAMF introduce a new game at the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA) Expo in November? What inspired this new product?
It’s true. We are planning to introduce our new Highway 66 and The Suite Spot attraction. The inspiration came from market research and understanding market trends in the location based entertainment arena.
Many locations have a lack of space, but still have a strong need for profits associated with first class entertainment for groups.
Even with the best mini-bowling solution like Highway 66 that we are installing today, we learned that there was a potential (and desire) for innovation in areas like visual appeal, theming, digital entertainment, comfort and group business. That was really the starting point to research the market and better understand the unmet needs and opportunities.
As a result of this effort we have designed a new Highway 66, which is the evolution of the bestselling mini-bowling product ever, and then have combined it with the ultimate in state-of-the-art entertainment, and a modern and unique environment that maximizes socialization and comfort for groups.
–How popular is YouToons, which invites players to merge their images into the scoring animations?
YouToons is extremely popular. Customers can’t get enough. It is the ultimate in on-lane interactive play that makes the game even more entertaining and customers end up playing game after game to continue the fun. As developers, it’s even more exciting for us to sit back and watch as customer after customer discovers the game, sees themselves in the animations, plays, laughs the entire time and wants to bowl more.
–How is the On-Lane Redemption system being received? How does it work?
For mini-bowling, redemption is extremely popular, especially when it has been incorporated into a redemption center; while in traditional 10-Pin Bowling we are beginning to see an increase in interest. As facilities are starting to evolve into more entertainment centers, Redemption is gaining appeal. For the centers that are using it today, we have seen that On-Lane Redemption ties the facility together as it encourages consumers to move from the Redemption Center/Game Room to the Lanes and vice versa and more party packages are being created that include multiple areas.
–Where is bowling popular in international markets?
Aside from North America where Bowling is the number one participation sport, Bowling is very popular in regions like the UK, France, Germany, Sweden, Scandinavia, Russia, South Africa, Middle East, Australia and Asia to mention a few. It’s also fast becoming increasingly popular in South America as well. It’s a very global game. In fact, last year our Bowling World Cup had 76 countries participate and we expect to see more this year for our 50th Anniversary in Poland in November.
–Do you follow a certain philosophy that has contributed to your success?
Our philosophy is very simple – we know we can’t be successful unless our customers are. This is why we take innovation so seriously. We consider it our mission to deliver products and services that help make our customers more profitable. And we do this by continuing to invest in research and development for innovative products and services that help our customers continue to grow their businesses. This philosophy is the commitment we have made with both the entertainment industry and with our customers.
–Are there any locations without bowling now that would benefit from adding bowling?
Bowling is converging and has proven to provide real benefits to any location that has other entertainment activities.
It also is a perfect fit for locations with an F&B offering, retail environments like shopping centers, and for most vacation destination spots.
If space is an issue or concern, our new Highway 66 or upcoming Suite Spot attraction will be a perfect fit.
–What sets QubicaAMF apart?
QubicaAMF is the industry innovator and the only company still investing and committed to stay and grow the industry. No one else invests as much as we do in product innovation every year. Our team of over 50 product managers, designers, engineers, analysts and programmers is the best, largest and most experienced R&D group in the industry. Our skills, knowledge, experience and product development is unmatched in the industry.
Some examples of our recent innovation includes: BES X, offering a variety of digital entertainment options, including Facebook integration, consoles that looks like i-devices where customers can take pictures, interact with other lanes and order food and beverage. Or our newest Harmony furniture collection offers furniture specifically designed for the industry. It can be transformed to embrace more lanes to better accommodate groups and events of all types and sizes.