Cashing in on Nostalgia
Thanks to TikTok and shows like “Stranger Things,” nostalgic entertainment like roller skating and arcade games are making family entertainment centers (FECs) cool again.
Here are some tips on how FECs can make the most of these trends.
Market to All Generations
Beth Twisler, director of sales and marketing for Boomers Parks—which includes six FECs and two water parks in California, Florida, and New Jersey—says they have seen an increase in guests ages 50 and older who are looking for nostalgic entertainment.
"They're looking for what's familiar, with having go karts and miniature golf and arcade and laser tag—it brings them back to a time that they were familiar with, just having fun, having good old-fashioned fun with their friends," she explains. "They're looking for positive memories ... They just want to let go, let loose, have a good time."
Because of this uptick in older guests, Twisler says it’s important for FECs to not just focus on one generational group. "A lot of times in the entertainment industry, we have focused on specific target markets," she says. "A huge piece of capturing the nostalgia crowd is being able to market generation to generation. We are not just for kids, we're not just for adults—we're for kids and adults. Anyone of any age can come and enjoy us and they can enjoy it together."
Everyone Loves the '80s
At Rainbow Roller Rink in Conroe, Texas, manager Jason Keating has been successfully using the recent interest in all things from the '80s. Thanks to the television show “Stranger Things,” the phenomenon has increased attendance at his facility.
This past summer, Keating held his first "Stranger Things" skating event around the time the fourth season of the show aired on Netflix. "Our first 'Stranger Things' skate, we had more people than we could fit in the building," he recalls. "I had to turn about 125 people away, and we've got a high-capacity building."
Keating says they encouraged guests to dress up by holding three costume contests—best male and female "Stranger Things" costumes and a general best '80s costume. They also played limbo, as it tied into "The Upside Down,” an alternate dimension that is part of the show's storyline.
"We got a lot of new faces in, and the best thing about that is if new faces see a great time, they want to come back next time when it's not an event," he adds.
Keating has also found the '80s is a very popular theme for his adult skates. "If we do an '80s night, the adults love it," he explains. "'80s and adults, it's just the right time frame—it's very nostalgic. There's something about '80s that's so bright and over the top. People just like to dress up and that gives them that opportunity to dress up like they used to when they were kids."
Ace the Arcade
Another area FECs can "cash in" on nostalgia is through the arcade. According to John Kolliniatis, senior vice president and general manager for amusement equipment provider Player One Amusement Group (P1AG), older Gen X and millennial guests who grew up with the first generations of arcade games and home gaming consoles have a greater affinity for nostalgic games and experiences from their childhood.
"The game does not necessarily have to be the exact game they played in their youth but should feature a beloved character or franchise," he explains. "Some of the most popular franchises include Pac-Man and Super Mario. Nostalgia helps to connect family members of different ages for a full family entertainment experience. Pinball, air hockey, foosball, alleys, and comic book or board game-based activities are also a great way to incorporate nostalgic games."
Kolliniatis also suggests FECs incorporate nostalgia through the merchandise and prizing selected for their crane machines and at their redemption counters. "There are many items to choose from, be it a traditional plush of a beloved character to novelty items such as character drink cups, themed board games, small appliances and more.”
Most importantly for building their arcade, Kolliniatis says FECs must know their market and the core demographic they want to attract. "For Gen Z and millennials, this could include arcade version of online and app games they grew up playing such as Angry Birds," he explains. "For Gen X and older, it would be classic titles like Pong, Pac-Man and Galaga. A good mix of both newer and older beloved franchises allows an FEC to appeal to a wide range of age groups."