Sports Simulator, a provider of advanced leisure simulators, was founded in 1992. As well as being the oldest simulator company to be run continuously by the same ownership, the firm also provides the biggest range of sports and challenges in the world.
Each Sports Simulator can host a wide variety of sports, with football, soccer, rugby, tennis, baseball, and cricket being popular options among the 60+ sports available today. And that just scratches the surface. Players can also discover some perhaps less well-known sports, from shinty and archery to disc golf, rinkball and foot golf.
The simulator is customisable and can be modified to suit any experience. It features over 3,500 sporting venues and over 1,500 game challenges within the simulator, transporting players to venues around the world. It is ideal for a wide range of locations, providing a fast FOI for FECs, cinemas, shopping malls, hotels, sports bars and more.
Owner and managing director Andy Cole has been overseeing Sports Simulator for the past 30 years, as the firm has grown from strength to strength. He speaks to blooloop about the company’s technology and its evolution. He also explains how it is continually innovating to add more experiences and more value for its customers.
Sports simulators created by sports fans
UK-based firm Sports Simulator has come a long way over the last three decades. It began as a developer of golf simulators. However, the team quickly saw an opportunity in using its best-in-class detection software to add more sports to its offer:
“All of us at the company are sports fans,” says Cole. “So, we knew that, in order to continue to grow the company and to make sure we’ve got longevity, we needed to diversify by using our detection system to do a lot more than just golf. Some of the golf simulator companies offer other sports, but generally only about six sports, with eight to 10 game challenges and one to four different sporting venues.
“What we’ve done is a completely different setup. We’ve created, so far, more than 1500 different game challenges. By the end of this year, we’ll probably hit 2000. We create a new type of game challenge focused on one sport. Then we can take that concept and roll out different variations of that challenge for other sports. So, each one appears completely unique to that sport.”
Now, the company offers sports simulators as its flagship product, where players can enjoy this wide range of challenges through more than 60 different sports, in over 3,500 playable sporting venues, such as their favourite football team’s home ground. It also offers the GSX Golf Simulator, with the most advanced golf simulator graphics and more than 20 game modes; racing simulators with over 200 elite cars and 120 unique racetracks; and shooting simulators with a range of game modes, challenges and flight simulators.
Helping operators to diversify
It’s this spirit of innovation that makes Sports Simulator a unique company, says Cole. Not content to rest on its laurels, more recent developments include playable environments, a new multi-play option, and sports analysis.
When it comes to ideal locations for Sports Simulator’s products, the possibilities are endless, he adds:
“We get different types of requests every day, from family entertainment centres, hotels, retail, cinemas, sports bars leisure centres…you name it. One of the main sectors for us recently has been retail. I think that’s the way the market is going. Shopping centres are struggling, all over the world. Stores are closing because most people are buying online; it’s more convenient and usually cheaper as well.”
Now, to fill those empty spaces and keep foot traffic up, shopping centres must diversify and offer something new. Hence the trend for retailtainment. And this is where Sports Simulator provides a solution. It helps landlords to retain customers and generate additional income through the addition of social gaming.
“Cinemas are going the same way,” adds Cole. With the plethora of streaming platforms now available, a trip to the cinema is becoming a rare occurrence for many. “One way of competing is to convert some of that cinema space. These are nice buildings, with parking, food and beverage, with welcoming reception spaces.
“If they were to convert, say, two screens, that would create a huge new space for entertainment. For instance, Sports Simulators, trampolining, climbing walls, VR; there are lots of different technologies out there that complement each other.”
Boosting advertising revenue
Another benefit for the clients is that Sports Simulator’s software allows for stadiums and objects within the games to be personalised and branded. This opens the door to another revenue stream.
Around the world, using sports simulators to advertise a new product or brand has shown to be a very effective engagement strategy. Customers are more likely to be interested in a product or service and make a purchase or license when it is displayed on a distinctive interactive platform.
The Sports Simulator software allows for brands to be added to a wide range of items. This includes four spinning stadium advertising banners, moving targets, commercials that play on stadium screens, flags waved by spectators, drink bottles, cans, uniforms, boots, and balls. Plus, special gaming challenges can be employed in conjunction with customised branding.
For venues like training centres and sports arenas, this allows them to personalise the equipment. Meanwhile, FECs, cinemas, retail and other venues can factor in additional income from advertising things like refreshments, car manufacturers, network providers, financial institutions, airlines and more.
“One example would be some special challenges that we’ve added to incorporate branding for Emirates. For instance, we have some football challenges where there is a plane on the pitch. Players shoot at three various game challenges using the plane.”
An adaptable solution with a fast ROI
This adaptability can be seen in other parts of the Sports Simulator offering as well.
“We’re always adding new challenges, which are rolled out as free-of-charge updates for existing customers. But we also respond to requests as well. Different partners might come back to us and say, ‘We need this particular type of product or game challenge. Can you develop it?’ And most of the time, the answer is yes. We don’t like using the word no.”
The firm can also customise manufacture the machines, depending on the space available:
“If it’s a single screen, it can be custom-made to the client’s own room. If the room is too small to fit a three-screen surround system, which is our most popular machine, we can supply a custom single-screen solution.”
Another way that the company helps new or potential clients is by providing clear and realistic business plans. These can be used to demonstrate the simulator’s profitability to investors, lenders and directors.
Three business plans are available, and these include an executive summary, business summary, layout plans, entertainment technology, start-up expenses, market analysis summary, competition, revenue streams, revenue forecast, annual costs, profitability, sports popularity with fans and a sports tournament seasonal chart.
The technology behind Sports Simulator
While the company’s products are powered by sophisticated and reliable technology, from its 3D camera detection system to infrared lighting and powerful projection, Sports Simulator has worked to make the actual playing experience as user-friendly as possible.
Cole demonstrates the software, showing the simple steps that users run through to set up a game. “We are trying to make things as easy to understand as possible. A lot of what is on the screen has to be used around the world, in lots of different languages. We currently have 16 main languages, including Arabic. However, if a client comes in and they need another type of language, we can create that as well.”
“Any group can use this set-up, whether it is a birthday party, stag or hen do, or corporate event. They just go in and choose the type of sport and then follow the options. For example, we can set up a multi-play football simulator, with two groups of five players, and we can choose the number of different challenges.
“It starts with a fly-though of the stadium that they have chosen. That includes all the details like the branding and the fans in the stands, with their home kits. Then we have the different challenges, like penalty kicks, target practice etc. And players are getting all their stats on display after each shot as well, with leaderboards that are updated as the teams progress through the challenges.”
The appeal of active entertainment
In a world where in-home immersive entertainment, such as VR headsets, is improving all the time, Cole maintains that there is more value in this type of social environment:
“What’s particularly good about the three-screen surround set-up is that, when you’re playing the game, you’re fully immersed. The images are in your peripheral vision, on both sides, and they are in front of you. When you’re playing inside the machine, all three sides are showing that stadium or that environment. That feels more immersive than wearing a headset.”
“One of the downsides of VR attractions is that they’re competing against what you can now buy on PlayStation or Xbox. You can now buy headsets to use at home. And, if you can do it in your bedroom, you’re not going to go out and do something similar in an FEC or an activity centre.
“But what we do can’t be replicated at home. You’re fully immersed in the sport, in the game challenge. You’re physically kicking the ball, or hitting it, depending on the sport you’ve chosen. Most people can’t kick a ball around in their own homes.
“Plus, then we have all the stats, we have the leader boards that encourage you to come back and to compete with your friends. It’s a social experience, whereas VR can be quite isolating, within a headset.”
Sports Simulator in action
One popular new entertainment concept where Sports Simulator is adding value is Sixes, the world’s first social entertainment cricket venue. There are currently three locations across the UK, in London, Manchester and Birmingham. These venues allow guests to test their batting and bowling skills within a fun themed environment. When they aren’t challenging their friends for a place on the leaderboard, visitors can also enjoy a BBQ-inspired menu and signature cocktails.
Batting simulators are complimented by Sports Simulators who offer popular English Sports such as Cricket, Football and Rugby, as well as the firm’s 57+ other Sports and its 1,500+ Game Challenges, but in a much smaller footprint increasing ROI and Profits.
Across the pond, the firm also brought its 3D Sports Simulator to a new venue in Beaverton, Michigan, last summer. Here, guests can play over 60 popular sports in a purpose-built building. This means that they can enjoy their favourite activities all year round, no matter the weather.
So far, the most popular sports at Unstoppable SportsZone in Beaverton have proved to be American football, soccer, golf, ice hockey, baseball, contest golf, tennis, basketball, shooting, softball, motor racing, foot golf, field lacrosse, disc golf and volleyball. It has hosted team-building events, stag parties, hen parties, birthday parties and more.
Next to the headquarters of Sports Simulator in Surrey, UK, the company has also recently transformed its former Sports Coach Simulator Factory demonstration centre into the new Sim Studio. Here, visitors can enjoy two Surround Super Simulators and two Premium Super Simulators. There is also a Football Simulator, two Racing Simulators and a Shooting Simulator.
“We’re lucky that we have an academy here,” says Cole. “It’s been really busy, and we’ve had positive feedback. Having that on our doorstep allows us to listen to the players and develop more features too.”
Other recent installations include the Purple Dragon family club in London, Dome FEC in Carlow, Ireland, and a unique Simulated Sports Café in South Africa. During the Euro 2020 competition, a Sports Simulator unit formed the centrepiece of a special revamp of the flagship Adidas store in London.
The Sports Simulator team is looking forward to a busy 2023. Not only will the company be continuing to add to its portfolio of sports, games challenges and playable environments, but it will also be installing its products at new venues around the world.
“Our number one question that we are being asked, particularly with the Middle East, is how fast can we deliver? The demand is huge. We’ll also be at DEAL in Dubai and the Saudi Entertainment and Amusement Expo in Riyadh. The team will be taking the Elite Max model. This is a three-screen set-up, so we can show the Middle East market the product in action.
“Probably 25% of our customers are coming from the Middle East right now. We’re going to keep adding to our playable environments too because they have been really popular there. For instance, you can play golf in Riyadh and Dubai City, as we’ve recreated the major landmarks.”
The firm is also continuing to see a lot of interest from North America, where the competitive socialising trend is showing no signs of slowing.
“If you want to build something like a TopGolf, it’s going to cost you millions of dollars. You need to find a space, you need to get permission, and you need to build it. But you can open something new in an empty retail space, for example, and add some different entertainment options, including some of our simulators. That will cost you a comparatively small amount, with a quick return on investment and ensuring profitability.”