Laser Tag at IAAPA 2022
If you want to see the latest innovations across the laser tag industry, the IAAPA Expo in Orlando, FL is the place to be!
I spent three days talking with all the laser tag manufacturers and getting their opinions to share in an upcoming episode of the Laser Unfocused Tag Talk Podcast while seeing what is new and what is exciting for the industry as we move into the next year.
There is plenty to be excited about in the laser tag industry right now. So much I barely know where to begin, but here’s what I saw going on with each of the manufacturers in attendance at IAAPA.
I spent some time talking with Jim Kessler, CEO and founder of LASERTRON, who was excited to show me the new LT-X3.
This new phaser design has a lot going on!
There is a built-in scope, a lot of internal bracing for durability and dual stereo speakers right on the phaser. On the side you will be able to see a visible depletion of energy (to give you a better idea of where your opponent’s health level is during the game). Having both red and green beams can coordinate with the pack colors (a tip-off is you are in spy mode) and there are five sensors down the barrel area on the front. This will be interesting to try once it comes out in January.
I got to check out another new phaser design with Joe McGeorge, Chief Operating Officer of Battle Company, who let me take my first shot with the Alternator.
What I like most about this new model is the size. It is lighter and shorter than the other taggers in their collection. It feels more comfortable and natural to me, which I discovered as I set my sights on a target several booths away.
Battle Company calls it modern laser tag, but my take on this new model phaser is that it seems like a good hybrid between tactical and traditional laser tag, which appeals to me as a predominantly traditional arena player.
Rohan Kelly, Chief Operating Officer of Laserforce International (and son of the founder, Len Kelly) was in attendance at this show for the first time and I enjoyed getting a chance to spend time learning about his background with the company as much as what they have been developing.
Laserforce is showcasing a new feature to connect the laser tag game with an external redemption counter reward. There are a variety of ways an operator can customize this, but my experience was that I simply had to request for my game card and membership to be connected together and then my placement in the game would determine how many tickets I could win to redeem for a prize at the redemption counter. Tickets are awarded right on the phaser screen itself at the end of a game.
I also got to express what an unexpected surprise it was last November to learn that a Tivia avatar had been added to their collection with an update that debuted at last year’s IAAPA, which he acknowledged was put in as something of an “Easter egg” for people to discover…including me!
When I sat down with Shane Zimmerman, Vice President of Sales for Delta Strike, he told me about the operator's portal that will help operators keep on top of their diagnostics, to help keep things running smoothly.
I visited with one of Delta Strike’s local operators while I was in Orlando so I could experience the Genesis system “out in the wild” rather than simply at the booth and I enjoyed a game after I had been given a tour of the arena and I was impressed with the experience.
I also visited with a local LaserBlast operator and enjoyed a game of CyberBlast while in town. When I chatted with Michael Ewald, president of LaserBlast about his company I learned about a small, but significant update.
The new magnetic latches securely attach a phaser directly to the pack instead of relying on a customer to clip it back for storage after the game.
I noticed it immediately when I tried on a pack myself over by their projection target.
The magnetic latch helps solve a problem I have observed in many arenas where phasers can often hit the floor when a customer doesn’t reattach it properly. Mike hopes this will help customers get in and out of the vests faster and improve ease of use. Fanless charging racks are less noisy and another feature LaserBlast was showcasing.
Tim Ewald, founder of LaserBlast was there to support the family enterprise for which his son has taken the lead. Tim continues his involvement in the capacity of manufacturing operations.
Meanwhile, a different family laser tag business was just getting started with Outback Laser Tag Equipment USA making a first appearance at IAAPA.
This new company is a start for young entrepreneurs Collen Petit, CEO and founder and Karra Petit, co-owner to begin a venture in the tactical laser tag industry with the guidance of their father, tactical tag veteran Phillip Petit, acting as their operational consultant.
Karra gave me a very informative tour of their equipment telling me all about the features and even some unique programmable sound effects (for example, a cat’s meow).
It is always cool to check out something new and I am impressed with the initiative of these young owners, aged 21 and 14 respectively.
Edward Gainer, owner of Elite Laser Tag was showcasing the durability of his tactical laser tag products and is optimistic about laser tag picking up and anticipates an increase in mobile and outdoor laser tag.
If that holds true, then companies that can accommodate indoor and outdoor customers should do well.
Ziad Dergham went from starting out as an operator to now serving as the Chief Operating Officer for iCOMBAT and was excited to talk about the Valkyrie as a replacement for the mobile Barracuda model.
They were showcasing their current product line of realistic tactical, the more traditional Invictus and the phaserless Hero Blast as Ocie Mathenia, VP of Sales for iCOMBAT shared that this is their first full year as an employee-owned company, after purchasing the company previously owned by Rick Jensen.
Another company was also going through changes, starting with their name. Michael Obod is the co-founder of Netronic, formerly known as LaserTag.net. He first told me about this branding change several months ago when I first interviewed him about his company that manufactures their products in the Ukraine.
I had played Netronic twice previously and was particularly interested in the Galaxy vest and the newly designed phaser as well.
Erik Guthrie, Senior Vice President of Zone Laser Tag commented on the optimism he sees going forward for the laser tag industry and was enthused about operators' response to their games and equipment at the show.
I had a chance to sample some of the mini-games that can be played using the Zone video bases and the Helios 2 system.
Paul Savard, president of Lazer Runner was excited about seeing so many people in attendance, which is a sentiment I heard echoed by many manufacturers.
While acknowledging the challenges of the past few years, he expressed optimism while showcasing their laser tag products.
Stan Liu, COO and co-founder of ZTAG was showcasing four new games for their unique laser tag, which is played using a portable wrist device rather than a phaser.
He feels that there is variety within the laser tag industry and there are options available for every type of customer.
Even though BazookaBall is not focusing as much on laser tag, I did appreciate that at their booth I had the rare opportunity to check out Plasma Force at the show as well.
So, you can see there was a tremendous variety of laser tag represented at IAAPA this year. Commentary from each of these manufacturers as well as arena designers, industry educators and more will be featured in an upcoming episode of Laser Unfocused Tag Talk, so to hear directly from these laser tag industry experts you can listen to the upcoming "Interviews at IAAPA" episode to debut on December 2nd on Spotify, Apple Podcasts and YouTube.
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