Dart Players Excitedly Return to Play
Arachnid 360 Chief Zammuto Talks About the Dart Community, BullShooter, Managing Covid With Resilience & More
In 2020 when so many locations were shuttered, Arachnid 360’s Sam Zammuto said players were “chomping at the bit” to get back in the game and boy have they shown up!
Attendance at the BullShooter Regionals was “consistent if not better than pre-pandemic numbers,” Zammuto reported. Same went for the BullShooter World Tour Finals held in May.
In fact, enough international players were able to attend so they could once again host the International Cup with dart players coming into Chicagoland from 11 countries.
RePlay reached out to Zammuto to get the pulse of Arachnid 360 and the world of darts – from how the Loves Park, Illinois- based company handled the early days of Covid and how they’ve recovered to R&D, new products and the busyness of the factory.
RePlay: How has recovery been from the player perspective?
Sam Zammuto: Throughout 2020 and early 2021, players were absolutely “chomping at the bit” to get back into the game. They missed the sociality, competition and comradery that goes along with playing darts. So, during the shutdown we prepared ourselves for the gigantic “boom” the bar, restaurant and pub establishments would experience once these places opened back up and dart players were able to resume leagues and tournaments. With more than 1,200 operators ready to run leagues each week that consist of millions of players, they came back ready for action.
How did Arachnid manage the shutdown? Were you able to keep everyone on staff or have to resort to cutbacks/ temporary layoffs?
Coming off the Covid pandemic, Arachnid has rebounded. Unfortunately, we experienced layoffs like most manufacturers, but we maintained manufacturing games with a skeleton crew throughout the complete year-and-a-quarter shutdown in the state of Illinois.
During that time, the remaining staff worked hard to manage the supply chain issues, sometimes air-freighting parts to get them in, and stepping up manufacturing so we could continue sales and prepare for what was to come. Foreseeing the development of social people want- ing to get together, great sales happened in 2021, which was our best sales year in 27 years.
With another upturn in 2022, Arachnid is proud to announce we have already surpassed our 2021 dart sales. Arachnid has manufactured 11 models of dart machines in the past 40 years and the popularity of the Galaxy 3 Fire and Plus continues to rise with over 39,000 Galaxy 3’s connected online all across the United States and Internationally.
Did you find home sales boom during Covid?
With the introduction of the Spider 360, 1000 and 2000 Series dartboards in late 2019, the pandemic offered optimal opportunity for sales to the home market. The software features home-use-only leaderboard competitions where players can be introduced to more competitive dart play, build their skill level and gain ranking against other Spider board players.
Overall, we saw a significant increase of people investing in this dartboard as a means to maintain or increase their skill level and improve confidence so when establishments opened up, they could play in leagues and tournaments.
You mentioned this year’s BullShooter was a big success coming out of the pandemic. What are your expectations for next year’s event?
Looking ahead to BullShooter 37, scheduled for May 25-29, 2023, there will be five days of competition, 23 events, over $150,000 in prize money, and we expect 1,200 world-class players.
Back in the 1980s and ’90s, the Arachnid philosophy was to turn the dart game into a sport. That philosophy has since remained one of our main goals and we have always hoped to see dart tournaments live-streamed to viewers on television, which happened on Aug. 4 when BullShooter was selected to host an on-air Invitational Shootout dart match live on ESPN Ocho. Some of our most elite dart players vied live on the top television sports network for the championship title and a $20,000 grand prize!
Since its airing, it has been re-aired five more times on ESPN2 and ESPN News. Recently, we got word that we’re lined up for the next ESPN Ocho show scheduled for August 4, 2023, in South Carolina, and we are so very excited to continue building the game of darts into a legitimate sport with millions of viewers to see on TV!
There have been more than 50 years of playing electronic darts, dating back to 1968-1972 in England. It’s hard to convey the rush of excitement the player feels standing on a throw line eight feet away, hitting the bullseye about the size of a dime and the game goes off making sounds like when you hit the jackpot on a slot machine. A normal league player shoots darts two nights a week with his or her buddies, having a few beers, and high-fiving each other with every winning game. A winning shot can feel like winning the Super Bowl to the average tavern player. Those feelings are hard to put into words.
How are things at the plant?
The factory remains busy working five and a half days a week. A company is only as good as its employees and without the strong leadership of Tony Beall, Chris Beall and Shawn Beall, and the hard work all of our staff – especially that of Mike Gannon (VP of customer service), Patrick Rice (VP of software) and Bill Redig (VP of strategic planning) – Arachnid wouldn’t be thriving like it is today!
It takes many hands to create and build these dart machines and we couldn’t do it without the hard work and dedication of all of the manufacturing, software, support, sales, shipping and receiving team members who put in their efforts day in and day out.
Outside of the factory, we have six regional sales representatives across the United States: Bob Wiles (East Coast), Chad Zander (Midwest), Phil Johnson (Mid-Atlantic), Patrick Mulligan (Southeast), Kidd Cardenas (Southwest) and Larry Buckwalter (West Coast). Our sales philosophy is to teach and train every operator to develop and promote leagues and tournaments by offering assistance and training after the sale of each game. Our representatives have a true dedication to operators in the development of long-term league locations. Our staff travels around the United States with a dart game and software in each of their vans for promotion purposes.
What’s new on the R&D side? Any new products or features? Have you added anything to widen the connection to the player community and enhance game play even more than you have today?
Our latest effort on the R&D side has been mainly focused on further minimizing the effort tournament coordinators need to put into setting up and running remote tournaments.
TK Mini takes advantage of our remote play infrastructure to automate remote tournaments. Shortly after rolling it out, enthusiastic reception prompted fast feedback about expanding capabilities to accommodate the many ways operators run tournaments – requests which were in complete alignment with what our LeagueLeader.net already provides for leagues.
We responded by integrating bracket functionality right into LeagueLeader .net to leverage its robust customization capabilities, stats tracking and use of handicapping. Our newest tool, part of our TK Products line, is TK Brackets, now a seamless part of the League Leader.net system operators are already familiar with and use on a regular basis.
TK Brackets helps operators and dart players in several ways. For operators, running tournaments with TK Brackets couldn’t be any easier since it cuts way down on the extent of manual data entry experienced when trying to run tournaments as leagues. For players, it greatly declutters the League menu because TK Brackets events are accessed under the Tournament menu, so everyone can find their events much faster. Further, TK Brackets improves overall system performance by decreasing server load, while also speeding up access times. Whether big or small, on-site or remote, regular or handicapped, ranked or unranked – we’ve got all tournament needs covered with our Tournament King products.
What’s the current product lineup?
As I mentioned, Arachnid has manufactured and developed 11 models of dart machines in the past 40 years. The most popular dart machines are the Galaxy 3 Plus and Fire. The Galaxy 3 Fire features a red, illuminated cabinet that glows in the dark throughout pubs, bars and restaurants across the world. The Galaxy 3 Fire and Plus both feature a dual, automatic rotating dart head with a 15” dart head target and 13” dart head target. The game automatically flips with a motor determining pro and amateur fun games that offers entertainment and challenge to any level of dart players from beginner to advanced players.
In addition to dart machines, Arachnid offers the DiscGlo Shuffle which is an electronic shuffleboard that is approximately five and a half feet long, requires no wax, has a ball bearing puck and plays a variation of games consisting of traditional shuffleboard, classic bowling, pro bowling and Jackpot, which can be used in casual play, league play, and tournament play. Not only is this shuffleboard conveniently sized, the cabinet illuminates in four different colors for an eye-catching and fun experience.
As we wind up this Q&A, tell us about the resilience of the Arachnid team and your commitment to the industry.
Being part of Arachnid for 40 years, there is a lot of history with the Beall Family. Incorporated in 1975, founder Paul Beall was a driving force in establishing the company and by the mid-1980s was a staple in the industry. We started holding seminars to assist distributors and operators and began BullShooter Regional Tournaments in 1986, along with the first World Tournament Championship in Chicago in May of that year.
A change of ownership led the business into the ’90s, but in 2014 the next generations of the Bealls took it back over. Coming full circle, Paul’s three sons Tony, Chris and Shawn regained the business with enthusiastic passion and through their leadership, they guided Arachnid back into the progressive, family-oriented foundation built by their father, and we continue to pioneer the sport of soft-tipped darts into the present. The “promotion, promotion, promotion” mantra has kept Arachnid a staple in the industry for over 40 years.
Arachnid’s commitment to the industry over the last four decades has withstood the tests of time and our product line has remained a strong staple in the coin-operated industry. We will continue to pioneer and innovate well into the future of darts.