Mastering Their Lane
UNIS Takes the Traditional and Turns It Upside Down With Innovative Games and Groundbreaking New Technology
UNIS Technology has come a long way since 1993, when they began as a small manufacturer working out of a modest factory in China. Today, they are a well-known coin-op game maker with a focus on innovation paired with a commitment to excellence. This has taken them from that single, small factory to a 1.4 million-square-foot facility, multiple offices in Hong Kong, Canada, the U.S. and Colombia, and games that can now be found on location in over 60 countries around the world.
This eye toward innovation is apparent when you examine UNIS’ new products. The company’s latest offering, Lane Master, combines the physical fun of traditional alley bowling with the flexibility of a video game. Built-in sensors detect a ball’s speed, spin and trajectory as the player rolls it and translate the action on-screen. The company is also exploring the waters of virtual reality with its Omni Arena collaboration, which puts players into virtual worlds, utilizing VR headsets, fake guns and slick pads that allows the player to emulate the feeling of running in any direction.
UNIS on the Move
Company execs rightly notice that the arcade landscape is changing as quickly as any other industry in our fast-moving society. To successfully compete, arcade games have to offer elements that smart phones and console games can’t replicate. To entertain today’s consumer, changes have been necessary for everyone in game design and manufacturing. While some might see those challenges as daunting, UNIS says they see them as an opportunity to shine.
“We strive to stay on the forefront of innovation,” UNIS President Louis Lu said. “Our aim is to build games that are fun, unique and suitable for worldwide markets. We are especially excited about creating games for American audiences. The U.S. is a strong and established market; customers know what they want and we need to be able to provide that.”
To ensure its U.S. clients are serviced quickly and more effectively, UNIS established a U.S.-based office in Dallas at the end of 2012. The office now fully handles game sales, as well as parts and support. Debbie Gonzalez, U.S. Sales Manager, alongside service and parts members of the UNIS team, support domestic sales and are fully committed to the U.S. market.
“I’m considered a satellite office,” Gonzalez said. “UNIS is a worldwide manufacturer and we have an extensive product catalog, so supporting our sales across this entire country is a huge undertaking. We have a small team that works well together though, and we’re steadily adding people as our customer base grows.”
UNIS recently brought Karen Yea, an administrator from its Toronto office, in to help with U.S. sales, and the company also expanded its warehouse in Dallas to better serve customers. According to Gonzalez, the team tries to ship everything that lands stateside from the main offices in China within 24 hours, but also says that with UNIS’ long history of machines that last, providing parts for older games can be challenging. Despite this, Gonzalez has seen firsthand how quickly UNIS’ service in the U.S. has improved.
“Oh my gosh, the quality of the product and player appeal have improved so much,” Gonzalez said, “as well as the company’s overall direction. This year we had quite a few machines that were more mainstream, and we’ve always focused on the family and children.”
UNIS execs explain that the company has built its market by concentrating on a niche that is ripe for development and innovation. A focus on family games has leveraged the company’s successes and many of its games are versatile and can be enjoyed by children and adults alike. UNIS games can be found in children play centers and FECs, but also in bars and restaurants.
The company points to recent successful games such as Pirate’s Hook, Duo Drive and Panning for Gold, to name a few. Available in one-, two- and four-player versions, Pirate’s Hook lets players go fishing for redemption with realistic reels and popping graphics. Like its latest offering, Lane Master, Pirate’s Hook combines physical action with a responsive video screen.
“We sold thousands of units of Pirate’s Hook worldwide, and we anticipate the numbers for Lane Master will be just as strong, if not stronger.” said Gonzalez.
Lane Master was awarded “Most Anticipated Game” at the March 2017 China (Shangyu) Game Industry Development conference. “Ever since its preliminary debut at last year’s IAAPA, the game has been at the top of everyone’s watch list. The game has now officially launched in the U.S. and the demand has been nothing short of overwhelming,” said Gonzalez.
Lane Master brings a traditional bowling alley experience to any space. The game is played like a traditional alley bowler, with players building up points over a number of frames. Operators can adjust the number of frames for each credit; choose shorter games for higher traffic areas and greater revenue or allow players to stretch out a leisurely game while enjoying food and drinks.
The game is currently sold with two lanes and a striking marquee which functions as a scoreboard. It can be played as a one- or two-player game.
“Lane Master is designed to be a focal point in a location. Operators looking for a cool, sleek, attraction piece that will also keep visitors entertained will find that this game checks all the marks,” said Account Executive Karen Yea. “It’s a great way to add a pop of color and excitement to any establishment.”
According to the company, one of the reasons they expect the game to be a sensation is that it stands alone in a simulated bowling space, but fits into most locations easily.
“At approximately 10 feet long, the playfield length is the same as other classic alley games. Lane Master is a great pick for those who are simply looking to rejuvenate their bank of alley rollers,” said Yea.
So far, response has been highly positive, she reported. The Smiles for Miles arcade in Cleethorpes, U.K., enthusiastically wrote to UNIS about the new piece: “The Lane Master income has been fantastic. People have actually been queueing to play it, and based on this I have ordered two more units for my other arcades.”
U.S. orders of Lane Master are shipping now from the company’s Dallas facility, and it’s already been dispersed to other locations throughout the country. One of the latest installs was at Lucky Leo’s on the boardwalk in Seaside Heights, N.J.
The leadership team behind UNIS built its past success on family-friendly offerings that draw in children and parents alike, but looking to the future, what do they have in mind?
“Our strength has always been in developing family games that are suitable for all ages,” Lu said. “That will, of course, remain our focus.” But the company is also keeping a keen eye on emerging technologies and is eager to break into new venues. A very clear example of this drive is the introduction of their VR product, the Omni Arena. And while continuing to wow fans in the coin-op amusement sector, UNIS also has plans to expand into the consumer market to let players bring the arcade experience home.
Lu is confident about the company’s future, concluding: “In the next five years, our wish is to take the company to a whole new level. Our goal is to continue to work even more closely with industry partners. Together we can further contribute to the advancement of the amusement industry.”
To learn more about the company’s extensive product line and to keep up with their many developments, visit UNIS online at www.universal-space.com.