Lasertron’s Krazy Darts Elevates the Classic Steel-Tip Game
Following the success of their axe throwing lanes, Lasertron wanted to create another augmented reality, gamified attraction to add to their newly-branded lineup of “Social Gaming Experiences.”
The company’s Jim Kessler said Krazy Darts was “one idea of many” that they were working on for the social gaming concept, and the one that Bryan Kaczmarek (lead software programmer) and Matt Benjamin (lead designer) said could be done the quickest. A mock-up prototype was created early this year.
“It wasn’t at the top of our drawing board,” Kessler explained. “But once we saw it, it was like, ‘Yeah, this is going to work.’”
Krazy Darts has 15 games to start and will have 20 once IAAPA Expo rolls around, including some seasonal games they’re tweaking at the moment. Jim and sister Ann Kessler showed a production model of the attraction for the first time at Bowl Expo and it’s already on location at their own facilities in Buffalo and Rochester, N.Y. (There are two lanes in Buffalo and seven in Rochester.)
For as good as their axe throwing attraction has been for them, it’s not all that easy for everyone to play. In contrast, Kessler says, “The best part about Krazy Darts is we incorporate intuitive games into it. Players imply throw a steel-tip dart at a 98” cork board with the high-quality laser-projected images on it. Some games have balloons you have to pop for points or ducks you have to hunt to get the top score.
“It’s a lot less of a learning curve,” Ann Kessler added. After only a few months of work, the attraction went on location at their facilities, opening April 14.
“The only complaint we’ve ever had from a guest playing was there aren’t enough games,” Jim espoused. “I didn’t think so in the beginning, but I think Krazy Darts is going to be as big or bigger than our axe throwing attraction.” He attributes that to a wider age range and demographic appeal.
“With Krazy Darts, our goal is to make the skill level as low as possible,” he said, mentioning that the system defaults to the easier games. Guests, however, can make it harder by playing more challenging games. “If you make it harder than it needs to be right off the bat, people aren’t going to like it.”
One game coming soon is Halloween themed with ghosts flying around; another is steampunk themed. They’re also working on a new physics engine software update where players will throw the darts at cans on a shelf and watch them cascade over the ledge.
For operators, perhaps the best thing about Krazy Darts is that it’s unattended. “There’s very minimal supervision,” Kessler said, noting that staff can show newbies how to use the touchscreen display, but everything is simple from there. “We’re expecting it to do as well or better than axe throwing, but you also don’t have the expense of full-time staff running it.” Players can just bring the darts back to the bar once they’re done – kind of like bowling shoes at an alley.
During their Rochester facility renovation in August, they installed seven total Krazy Darts lanes (and added eight more axe throwing lanes, five billiards tables, two ping pongs and two foosballs as well). In Buffalo, they have two but will be adding four more Krazy Darts lanes by November, bringing the total to six.
“We’re in our slow season right now,” Kessler explained. “Our peak season starts mid-October, so we know we need more lanes.”
While anyone can play, Kessler shared a heartwarming story from one of his staff: “There was a family playing it – father, mother and two teen kids. My employee asked how things were going and the father said, ‘This is the most fun we’ve had together as a family in a long time.’”
The fun is spreading outside of Lasertron’s facilities as well. They’ve sold six to other locations, including four going into Corky’s Gaming Bistro in Dallas, whose CEO is Neil Hupfauer, one of the founding partners of Main Event. Lasertron is also replaying the center’s existing axe throwing with eight of their own lanes. Another industry vet, George Smith, is going to add lanes into his In The Game facility on Orlando’s International Drive at ICON Park.
“They’re both good operators and you’ve got to get the right operators to start,” Kessler said.
Minus the seating, the attraction is only 5 ft. x 10.5 ft. wide – about half the size of an axe throwing lane. Plus, like the axe throwing, the lanes can be placed back to back, so operators don’t necessarily need to occupy wall space.
“The two things that have surprised me is … it’s how much more fun this is than regular darts,” Kessler shard. “It’s designed for the social side of it and I think it’s surprisingly synergistic with axe throwing.
“The whole Social Gaming Experiences thing is way bigger than I thought it was going to be. I can’t think of anything in our industry that’s happened in the last 20 years that’s going to be bigger.”
Even the Kesslers’ 84-year-old mom said she’s going to start playing darts because of the ease compared to traditional darts.
Jim also said that they charge the same price as axe throwing – $25 per person for an hour of playing time.
Kessler again likened it to bowling as a social experience, but noted that unlike bowling, Krazy Darts is not a high skill level game. “Bowling has stood the test of time and proved the social part. Krazy Darts, axe throwing and whatever comes next will do the same.”