Ready Player One?
Acquisitions & Rebranding Catapult Player One Amusement Group Into 2017 as a Coast-to-Coast Operator, Distributor & Even More
If you pay attention to the goings on of this industry, you’ve probably heard of Player One Amusement Group (P1AG). If you’ve been working in this industry for a relatively long time, you’ve almost definitely heard of at least one of the companies that have congealed into the newly-minted group headquartered in Toronto, Canada.
Years of business consolidation – seen as a dirty word to some, the wings of an angel to others – helped morph Cineplex Starburst Inc. (CSI), Brady Starburst, Tricorp Amusements, Premier Amusements, SAW (Sega Amusement Works) and others into P1AG, a move that was made official with a meeting of the new group’s many heads at 2016’s IAAPA Attractions Expo.
Back in November 2016, Cineplex Inc. announced a rebranding that included combining its own arm of distributing/operating, Cineplex Starburst Inc., with the evergreen experience of tried and true coin-op distributors and operators like Brady and Tricorp. The Canadian movie theater arcades are nearly as synonymous with a visit to the flicks as hot buttered popcorn, making Cineplex’s move toward the amusement industry natural. Now, the consolidated company touts a number of growing accolades: 27,000 pieces of equipment in play, 2,900 locations, 500 team members and 21 offices across North America.
“While we just launched last November, it’s something that’s been in the making for years,” said P1AG General Manager Joe McCullagh, a senior executive from P1AG’s parent company Cineplex Inc., assigned to lead the new business. “We are a collection of companies that have decades of experience, and we created Player One to leverage all those companies and put us in a better position to serve customers across North America, with a package of total solutions.”
Decades of experience is far from an overstatement. Brady Distributing Company was originally established back in 1944, while Premier Amusements has been on the scene since 1949. According to toppers at P1AG, these deep roots add to the group’s knowledge and commitment to the industry.
The idea behind forming P1AG doesn’t go quite that far back, but got its start in 2007 with the acquisition of Playdium and Premier Amusements. It then grew in 2012 when Cineplex Entertainment and Starburst Coin Machine merged to create CSI. Following that, Brady Distributing was brought into the fold in 2015; Tricorp Amusements and SAW being acquired last year.
“The Player One brand is more than putting a new name and logo on all of our businesses,” McCullagh continued. “It’s about creating a company that can really play different, one that has a shared belief in the end consumer and creating exceptional entertainment experiences. The challenge of integrating six different companies into one over two years, is to first determine the kind of company you want to be and embrace the cultures that have come together. This thinking has made us quickly become one and actually made the technical sides of integrating pretty smooth.”
The core philosophy of P1AG is the company’s desire to provide full-service solutions, operating, selling and distributing amusement equipment for large commercial enterprises, small, self-run businesses and residential locations anywhere in North America. The company also runs its own amusement centers, including large scale Playdium and XSCAPE FECs and, more recently, supported Cineplex’s The Rec Room, giving them a multifaceted look at operating on both sides of today’s market.
“We offer full spectrum solutions, which is something we’ve been doing for decades,” said John Kolliniatis, a 20-year industry veteran who used to work at Starburst and is now P1AG’s Vice President. “In fact, we have many customers we both sell to and operate equipment with. Some need help and expertise, some need tech support, and some need viable capital solutions. We fit ourselves to each customer to find the best way to success. We understand the issues that exist in operating FEC facilities, and also understand the problems when a street operator makes a bad equipment decision that won’t give them a good return. We’re plugged in on all sides of the equation.”
This every-angle approach, combined with the company’s far-flung influence, gives P1AG customers access to information from hundreds of routes and locations, while the 21 offices (mainly focused in eastern North America with several in western Canada) allow for personalized and somewhat localized support. Their services are broken down into four main categories: route operations, sales/distribution, merchandising/ consultation and parts/services.
Claiming to be one of the largest operators of amusement equipment on the continent, P1AG says its route operations can serve almost any size business. The company provides site construction, merchandise strategies, game mix optimization, capital assistance, scheduled service visits and customized short and/or long-term rentals. P1AG’s sales/ distribution branch offers consultations for businesses just getting off the ground, financing programs, a selection of games for home sales, white glove installation services, trade in, buy back and auction services.
The company’s merchandising/consultation solutions tackles the increasingly resource-intensive search for a constant stream of prizes for redemption games and/or counters. P1AG helps customers with customized recommendations for redemption strategies, layout design, player card system consultation, implementation and control, and audit and reporting procedures to maximize profits with redemption games.
Also, to address an operator’s need to keep games running, P1AG offers a network of manufacturers and suppliers across North America combined with a team of expert techs to offer immediate support. The company promises parts sourcing for obsolete games, on-site technical visits, phone support, quick parts delivery, warranty repair and more.
“At the end of the day, the services we offer haven’t changed,” said Kolliniatis. “We’re continuing to offer all of the services that are important to our customers, just as we have for years. Now we just have a bigger team and broader geographical footprint to deliver those services.”
Kolliniatis and McCullagh say a larger team behind them and a greater pool of resources allows P1AG to better support newcomers to the industry. Both men consider the industry to have an increasing number of barriers to entry for newcomers, especially as the focus on FECs, high-end prizes and more expensive “attraction” games continues.
“We love the industry, and think it’s healthy. But it’s changing. Venues are more expensive to build, equipment is also more expensive, there is changing government regulation, and most importantly, the consumer’s habits are shifting, and demanding better environments for their amusement dollar. We set out to build a North American infrastructure that could help our customers’ deliver in this complex and changing environment.” said McCullagh. “We are not consolidating for consolidation’s sake, but building on a business plan to serve the entire country.”
McCullagh says P1AG made significant investments in its own company and the industry in 2016, and assures that the primary investment for 2017 will be in customer’s accounts. This new year will bring more attention to the new company, and with that more change.
“2016 was great, no doubt about it. We grew our organization organically and through acquisitions, and all throughout that we were working to improve every aspect of our service,” said McCullagh. “We are going to spend 2017 making sure everyone knows who we are, and continue letting folks experience a slightly different way to do business in the industry… We’ve got a lot of work to do, but we have the most committed team I’ve ever worked with and a strong leadership team that will continue to turn heads.”
Cineplex Inc. will continue the introduction of its Rec Room dining and amusement center concept. This “first of its kind” concept melds high-class dining and live entertainment with games and other attractions. The company has plans to open 10-15 more locations in the coming years.
Finally, McCullagh and Kolliniatis were emphatic in their team’s eagerness to continue attending industry events. After whetting their appetite at the IAAPA Expo, P1AG is looking forward to March’s Amusement Expo in Dallas, as well as IAAPA’s FEC Summit, the F2FEC Conference in February and the Bowl Expo next June to name a few.
With plenty of plans for growth in the size, breadth and offerings of the company, Player One Amusement Group is continuing to blaze a new trail forward. That trail, as it has always been in this industry, will be riddled with pitfalls and wrong turns, but with its decades of experience in coin-op, a solid, vigilant team and a little luck, that trail will take P1AG to the right place.
What’s in a Name?
General Manager Joe McCullagh explained the thinking behind the Player One name:
“Our name came long into the process of creating the company,” he said. “We started with what kind of company we want to be: taking the best parts of our predecessor companies, providing full-service solutions and more. We worked as a leadership team to determine how we were going to operate and our core values and beliefs, and then we started looking at names and the brand. ‘Player One’ seemed to fit.
“It’s an exciting name and has a whole lot of meaning in it,” Joe continued. “Our customers are ‘player one’ to us, our colleagues are our first player, and we believe we can be ‘player one’ in the industry. We use a mantra around here that is, ‘To win as one’ and ‘win with Player One Amusement Group.’ That whole ‘win with’ concept was really the root of our brand. We came to ‘win with’ because we don’t have a business if our customers don’t succeed. And they don’t succeed unless the end user has a great time.
“We’re very much in a business that seeks to operate in long-term, on-going relationships with our customers” McCullagh concluded. “‘Player One Amusement Group’ is also a nod to our rich history in video gaming equipment, ‘Amusement’ speaks to our amazing industry. Finally, ‘Group’ refers to the diversity of services we have today and pays respect to our corporate heritage and origins.”
Visit Player One Amusement Group at WinWithP1AG.com.