Updated: Feb 2, 2021
*Images curtesy of JRA
FECs or Family Entertainment Centers are evolving the Great American mall. In the laps of one decade, with the rise of retail delivery services like Amazon, much of the shopping experience has been diverted online. With free physical real estate inside malls, owners have been looking for ways to bring the audience back into their marketplaces.
Most of us have witnessed the growth of entertainment services inside malls to the extent it is unsurprising now to find full-blown theme parks, aquariums, or museums where the old Blockbuster and JC penny used to be. Furthermore, these new entertainment spaces know they need to continue to adapt to the changing cultural trends and "up" their game creating novel and fascinating experiences to attract new guests.
One prevalent strategy of FECs in 2020 is to brand environments that capture a storyline of a popular cultural character in gameplay and then connect such experience to a retail opportunity.
In the examples below, you will notice Nickelodeon's recreation of Sponge Bob's "Bikini Bottom" containing two attractions. One of the attractions is a project-mapped jellyfish catching game with an RFID catching stick and the other Krusty Krab's burger joint with a sequential game where kids get to work at different kitchen stations to make faux burgers for unforgiving ruthless customers.
Creating a diversity of experiences in confined real estate is the name of the game when designing these spaces. Attracting a balanced demographic while catering to each one comprises a key factor. Throughout the initial design, brand analysis guarantees cross-match in age appeals allowing guests to shift the focus of zones they would like to visit therefore spreading them throughout the space.
Such an example of a cross-match can be seen by comparing the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles obstacle course and the Dora the Explorer area, while both attractions have similar mechanics and target the same age demographic, the appeal of the different brands diverts in general gender demographic spreading the occupancy of the FEC and create different environments to experience.
All in all, FECs are going to keep evolving to adapt to the changing dynamic of our urban and economic environments. So far they have become a testing grounds for innovative experiences and perhaps in the future they will continue to evolve to the point where stores will rely on experiential factor of these designs and retail becomes an added proposition.
*Images curtesy of JRA