Amusement Expo 2021 in Las Vegas
The Amusement Expo trade show in Las Vegas was one of the first events of its kind to take place in the last year and it looked to me like everyone was there with a brighter attitude about the future of the amusement industry going forward. I found this to be a wonderful opportunity to check in with the laser tag manufacturers on site and to ask them “what’s new in laser tag?” since the last time we were all at this show together in March of 2020. There is a lot of optimism and plenty of new things being showcased for the industry!
Check back to my blog/website shortly as I will soon be posting a compilation of all the videos I took at each laser tag related vendor booth. Then you can hear the responses from each manufacturer directly about what is new with each brand that had representation at the show. In the meantime, here is an overview of my time at the Amusement Expo 2021.
I walked around the show one time completely before stopping to chat with Mike Ewald, president of LaserBlast.
He showed me the CyberBlast Pro vest along with some of its latest features including the touch screen on the back of the phaser that now includes a selfie cam that allows your pic that shows up on your opponent’s phaser when you tag them. He also shared a bit about the dual laser feature which I enjoyed trying out against one of their new projector target themes.
Projection targets are one feature that really catch my attention!
A short time later Petr Putkoff, the Russian laser tag YouTube vlogger and founder of EXO Laser Tag was checking things out at the LaserBlast booth as well, so we took a moment to chat.
Getting to try EXO laser tag at their first U.S. site in California prior to the expo was definitely a highlight of my trip and I wish Petr lots of success in bringing this new laser tag system to the American market.
Visiting Shane Zimmerman, VP of Sales for Delta Strike gave me a chance to review their new Genesis system, which I have my sights on playing out in the wild VERY soon!
With about 25 of these out in the market now there are more opportunities to play since it’s launch just prior last year’s shutdown. He pointed out some of the detailing that dresses up the LED points within the jacket-style vest. Then he showed me a comparison of the narrow phaser beam and the blaster, which includes a really cool light image effect around the beam when tagging in this mode. I like that a lot! He notes that “allowing (players) to tailor the game experience is critical.” Wireless charging is another feature that you are starting to hear more about these days and he showed me how the back of their pack connects with magnets to allow this.
Erik Guthrie, Vice President of Zone Laser Tag took some time to discuss the software advancements they’ve been working on with Helios 2 and Helios Pro including Zone Area Protocol Systems (aka Z.A.P.S.) which allows for either a warning to be given or a player to be deactivated if they come within six feet of another player. In the time of social distancing this seems like a very smart move, but he explained there will be game applications for this to be used even post-COVID.
He also discussed the new 30 second safety video that plays right on their new phasers to ensure that everyone is aware of the safety rules and you can’t say you didn’t know about them!
Taking some time with Jeff Willy of Laserforce gave me the scoop on a few new things that are happening with their Gen 8 Infinity system as well as Gen 7. I am already a big fan of the Battlefield Promotions which automatically allow players to “level up” during a game so that even at sites without membership cards there can be a more level playing field among players with varying degrees of skill. This helps keep the bunny hunters from doing as they sometimes do (ahem, Cody).
Gen 8 also now features some new on-screen avatars.
Brian Sytkowski, sales director for Battle Company was the one laser tag representative at the expo who talked less about their tactical laser tag phasers and instead showed me a completely different product line they offer, which is their new sword cage equipment. He says this attraction is “the only one of its kind as he described it as “a laser tag kind of sword fighting game” which uses a sensor belt to interpret the moves and strikes of the sword.
I played against my new friend Jason, a laser tag operator who is growing his business, and we both enjoyed this a lot. I struggle with calling it “laser tag” (as every definition of laser tag that I know references it as a shooting sport or game), but am not versed enough in the technology to otherwise define this new game. All I know is the swords are light, soft and have plenty of give, all while providing a distinct sound and feel of some realism that makes this a lot of fun!
There were plenty of businesses at the event that are related to laser tag without being game manufacturers. A great game of laser tag needs an equally impressive arena design and Doug Wilson, COO of Art Attack showed me their all-in-one lights that can give off black light, white light and RGB all in one unit.
Doug told me the all-in-one unit can do a dimmer, create optimal light and save on electrical use along with creating fade effects and color change lights that can be incorporated into game play. Another new element he was excited to discuss is the innovation of HD graphics that “make it look as real as a Hollywood set.”
Meanwhile another well known name in arena design is Creative Works. Creative consultant Nick Salfity talked to me about how their specialty is in creating “epic arenas” which he describes as immersive, story driven and interactive. He explained that they are incorporating a lot of cool props “to have a better gamification approach to laser tag.”
And because the laser tag industry is all about providing customers with the best experience, I wanted to hear from someone who focuses on helping companies with sales, service and leadership to improve the experience that they can provide. I was delighted to talk with Beth Standlee, founder and CEO of TrainerTainment, who gave me her top tip for laser tag…”Play. Play more than once, play with your team. It will make all the difference in your ability to sell.”
Beth took this lesson from her own experience, saying “When I played laser tag it made all the difference in my ability to share it enthusiastically.”
Well, I can personally take a page out of her book (literally) and say that I play laser tag constantly and am always ready to share it enthusiastically too! I want to thank all the manufacturers and representatives from businesses related to the laser tag industry who took some time to discuss their latest offerings with me during this year’s Amusement Expo.
Comments or Questions?