:: INTERVIEW WITH UKRAINIAN OUTDOOR LASER TAG OPERATOR (FIRE LINE SITE, EQUIPPED WITH FRAG TAG SYSTEM + VDV SITE, EQUIPPED WITH ACTION UKRAINE LASERTAG SYSTEM), Mr. VASILY RUDYUK ::
(Adopted translation from Russian. Read more » about Ukrainian laser tag sites)
TRUTNEE : - In 2007, you were the first one to open an outdoor laser tag site in Kiev, Ukraine. What factor influenced your decision to start a totally new business? Were you not afraid of competition with the already established in Kiev of that time shooting simulators, such as paintball and airsoft?
FIRE LINE / VDV : - Actualy, the main factor that influenced my decision to start outdoor laser tag business was my own interest in laser tag business itself. I used to play at indoor laser tag arenas and I was enjoying it. I played paintball and airsoft, as well. So, by the time of taking the decision concerning starting my own business, I got rather a good knowledge of all types of shooting simulating activities. Both me and my co-investors were looking forward to starting some kind of business were you provide your customers with new and enjoyable impressions, but not just selling some sort of goods. We didn’t considered airsoft as profitable business because in this type of activity you get the profit in case you are selling the equipment, but not the games themselves. Unlike was paintball, but at that time there were too many paintball clubs in Kiev already, and the competition level among them was too strong to let the newbie start a successful business. So, we decided to open an outdoor laser tag site.
TRUTNEE : - What was your marketing and advertising campaigns at the very beginning of your business? I mean, how did you get your first players?
FIRE LINE / VDV : - First of all we launched an Internet web-page providing the on-line visitors with a detailed description of outdoor laser tag. Than, we conducted various efforts aiming at getting our web-page noticed by Internet search engines, etc. Than, we provided a special discount program for local auto-clubs. After that, we used to distribute marketing leaflets. Besides, we paid a great attention to establishing a business partnership with event-companies. This way we got the first players. After that those first players started spreading a word of mouth about our site, and we got more and more new players.
TRUTNEE : - One of the sites you’re currently operating (and the first site that was opened by you) is equipped with Action Ukraine Lasertag (ACULA) system. What was the reason for choosing this equipment?
FIRE LINE / VDV : - First of all, we’ve chosen Action Ukraine Lasertag because of its availability [ACULA is manufactured in Ukraine]. At the time we started our business there were no other outdoor laser tag sites in Kiev. Visiting USA or Western European countries with the aim of getting familiarized with foreign equipment was considered as unnecessary expense. Otherwise, it was quite easy and inexpensive to visit ACULA site in Dnepropetrovsk, Ukraine. We came to Dnepropetrovsk, visited the site operated by the manufacturer, enjoyed the game and the equipment and, finally, purchased it. Comparing to foreign analogues, the functional characteristics of the Ukrainian system at that time were narrower, yet we found the basic modes and functions to be quite satisfactory for a game.
TRUTNEE : - What is your impression of Action Ukraine Lasertag system? How durable is it? Can you comment on the quality/price criteria for this system? Have you experienced any technical problems operating it? What is the quality of service support provided by the manufacturer?
FIRE LINE / VDV : - Having in mind the criteria quality/price I can state that ACULA equipment is worth the money they are selling it for. Yes, operating this system we experienced some technical problems, but we were able to solve those problems ourselves. At the time we purchased the equipment, the manufacturer’s service support was not at its best. We had to modify both the phasors and some of the electronic components. At present, most of the technical problems are solved in principle; besides, the manufacturer has greatly improved the technical support. So, I can say that now Action Ukraine Lasertag system is OK.
TRUTNEE : - In 2009 you opened another (the second) outdoor laser tag site, that time equipped with Frag Tag system. As far as I understand, this way you are planning to get more players with different individual favors, thus widening the targeted consumers’ range, right? But what are the targeted groups themselves? And – don’t you afraid of competition between the two of your own sites?
FIRE LINE / VDV : - That’s right; the two sites – Fire Line (Frag Tag system) and VDV (ACULA system) – were opened with different targeted groups of customers in mind. They have different prices, as well. For example, the targeted customer of Fire Line site is a person who aims at a precise simulation of real combat (or, at least, precise real life simulation of Counter-Strike PC game). At this, the equipment used here is rather complicated and it takes us much time to instruct the players. At VDV site no special instructing is needed – every player (including kids and women) who can hold a phasor weighing about 2 kg is able to operate the equipment almost intuitively. Thus, Action Ukraine Lasertag is great to be used at corporate events, where you usually don’t have so much time to be spent on instructing the players and the players’ demands to the equipment are not so high.
TRUTNEE : - Why have you chosen Frag Tag system? Was it difficult to buy it and to get it to Ukraine from Australia? How do you like the service support provided by the manufacturer? Does Frag Tag system meet your marketing and technical requirements?
FIRE LINE / VDV : - Frag Tag system was chosen because of its technical flexibility. This factor allows us to create the exact combat simulation type our players demand. Unlike the other manufacturers, Frag Tag allows their customers (operators) purchasing equipment sets formed according to their individual demands, but not ‘pre-set standard’ lots. We liked this manner of doing business very much.
Considering the very process of purchasing and delivery of the equipment… Yes, we experienced problems. Many problems [were caused by some peculiarities of Ukrainian legislation]. And it was rather expensive to have the equipment paid, delivered and cleared at the customs house. But we have passed all those problems, at last.
Manufacturer’s support. We used to ask them for help once only. As you can presume, the time difference and geographical distances are of no good for the customer’s support. Yet, we got our technical problem solved by the manufacturer in a professional and customer-friendly way.
Generally speaking, we like Frag Tag system. This equipment matches our players’ requirements pretty well (I should say, up to 99% of the players’ demands are satisfied).
TRUTNEE : - Can you say that outdoor laser tag is a seasonal business (particularly, in Ukrainian climate)? Are there any specific peculiarities when playing in winter? When the weather is bad, do you play indoors?
FIRE LINE / VDV : - Yes, seasonal fluctuations do apply to this type of business. We have fewer players when it is very cold or, vice versa very hot outside. Yet, some of the regular players do play at any weather conditions. Besides, we can play indoors, as well. The only problem when playing indoors is the ricochet. But as far as I know, this problem was solved by none of the manufacturers. Ricochet reduces players’ pleasure; yet, regular players are usually able to use this peculiarity to their own profit.
TRUTNEE : - Recently, we have seen at least two attempts to open competing outdoor laser tag sites in Kiev. Yet, looks like both your competitors failed. How do you think, what their failures were caused by?
FIRE LINE / VDV : - It is difficult to guess the real cause for their failure. The failed competitors were using different marketing strategies, but both did one and the same mistake. They underestimated the outdoor laser tag business. Many newbies think this business is simple and easy – you open an outdoor site, and almost immediately you got both players and money. Frankly speaking, I used to think the same way. But it’s wrong. Very wrong. Outdoor laser tag is a serious business, and the operator should work hard, very hard, to succeed. Especially, when you’re trying to establish this type of business in such a big city as Kiev.
As to the competition: yes, I can admit we’re serious competitors. Our sites are well-known to all people interested in combat simulating here. And we are experienced in participating in corporate events, as well. We know pretty good how to make outdoor laser tag games interesting and impressive.
TRUTNEE : - Can you please describe an average player: what is he/she – a student, a manager, an ex-military person? Which features of outdoor laser tag your players like most of all and which ones they dislike?
FIRE LINE / VDV : - Our average player is a person who is fond of an active way of life. Doesn’t matter what is he or she doing for living – we have seen very different persons playing at our sites, e.g. both workers and companies’ CEOs. Yet, I must admit that we have not so many students and schoolchildren among our players - probably, the young people prefer PC-games? Don’t know for sure…
Some of our players most of all like the reality of the combat simulation provided by laser tag, some like principle of fair play (which is so typical for laser tag because of electronic control of opponents’ tags), some of them appreciate player’s safety (when compared to paintball).
As to the dislikes… Well, cannot even guess, what a person can dislike in laser tag. Some of the players can have some individual claims, but they are very rare and may not be treated as systematic dislikes.
TRUTNEE : - To your opinion, what is outdoor laser tag: sport, or attraction?
FIRE LINE / VDV : - Both. It depends on the player himself. Say, there are players who are crazy about the game results – they see laser tag as a sport. And there are players who care about the game process only – these ones see laser tag as an entertaining attraction. But both types of the players do like playing laser tag.
TRUTNEE : - How do you think: in future, which of the competing types of shooting simulation will ‘win the race’ – laser tag, or paintball? Or, maybe, both types will continue simultaneous existence, just being focused on different ‘types’ of players?
FIRE LINE / VDV : - I would say both types will exist. Each one will have its own ‘type’ of player, it’s true. Both laser tag and paintball have advantages and lacks. And some of players will tend to laser tag, the others – to paintball.
I would like to emphasize the fact that even inveterate paintball players may find many positive features in laser tag, but it is very difficult to get them playing laser tag for the first time. Very often I see people trying just one type of shooting simulation and ignoring the other(s) thinking all types of simulations are alike. Unfortunately for them, they’re wrong. To understand your individual preferences, I strongly recommend trying all types of shooting simulation. Being a paintball player and never playing laser tag you won’t be able to say whether you like it, or not. I often see paintball players attacking the very idea of laser tag at Internet forums; I think it’s idiocy – 80% of them never tried laser tag, but they dare to criticize it!..
TRUTNEE : - Will we see something new at your sites in the near future?
FIRE LINE / VDV : - We always invent something new at our sites. For example, VDV club will have additional phasors soon. We are planning to get real weapon replicas as our new phasors, as well. And some new interactive additional devices… But it is a commercial secret yet; I will inform you about these novelties when the time comes.
At FireLine Club we don’t stop creating new game scenarios. At present, we can simulate the scenario of any PC game. We use such additional interactive devices, as team quarters (with different features) and ‘bombs’. And we are planning to use laser tag grenades soon, too.
We try our best to keep our players satisfied, you know!
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