I was invited to attend the show as a guest of iCOMBAT laser tag so they made sure I was registered and had a pass waiting for me upon my arrival to the Orange County Convention Center.
This show was so big that even though I had both my map and the IAAPA app on my phone to help guide me it did take me a little while to get my bearings. I had identified about 20 booths related to laser tag that I wanted to visit during the two days I spent at the show. The first one I came across was Laser Storm. I met Gord Armstrong, co-owner of Laser Storm and admitted to him that I had been under the impression that Laser Storm was no longer an active laser tag manufacturer. He took some time to explain to me a bit about the history and transition of Laser Storm along with some of the new changes that the company has made to the vests to give them a revamped design with shoulder sensors in place of a headset.
From there I made my way over to the main exhibit hall. My next visit was with Lazer Runner president Paul Savard who showed me the latest updates to their fiber optic battle vests (carbon edition) and their new Gen 4 phasers.
This phaser feels like a real step up. It's narrow where you would grip the bottom, but the height gives it a substantial feel even though it is still lightweight. I took a couple of shots at the vests and it felt really good to aim. I look forward to finding an arena where I can try this out in an actual game.
Anyone who knows me knows that I love to collect tag swag, so I also appreciated Paul sending me off with one of the Lazer Runner movie-style posters showcasing the new design.
Over the course of the two days I spent at IAAPA I got to try out a lot of cool things. At the iCOMBAT booth I got to visit with the team I met last year in Wisconsin including VP of Operations Brandon Mijokovic, VP of Sales Ocie Mathenia and VP of Business Services Marc Haag.
And I learned about how they offer the option of a sensor sling, which I had not given much thought to previously (however I recognized the benefits when I saw it in action later that night while I was out at an attraction in Orlando). And I had my first experience playing Hero Blast, their non-gun option (more suited to kids) when I played a round with Pudge at the booth.
Over at the Laserforce booth I got to visit with some of the team that I already knew from the Syracuse and Loveland locations while taking a closer look at their latest laser tag advancement, Gen 8 Infinity.
And picking up more tag swag as I go...
As I continued around the exhibit hall I saw something new at the Delta Strike booth. To be fair, I haven't had all that many experiences playing Delta Strike outside of at Main Event locations. I do remember once playing at a site that had their video base stations in use, which was cool (although I still struggle to understand why any system includes a quiz game in the middle of playing laser tag). However, here I got a peek at something new...the Hex Base Station.
Laser Blast had some cool upgrades to the Cyber Blast equipment including new triangulation (is that the right word for it when it's inside a circle?) on the beam, which you can see on this screen where it is totally missing the animated gorilla target. :)
When I visited the Lasertron booth they did have something new to roll out, but in this case it wasn't the equipment...it was the new game formats they were introducing. I learned that there would be opportunities to play some new game formats including King of the Hill, Headquarters and their version of Domination. These will be accessible at designated public play times at their Buffalo and Rochester area locations, which I'm glad to hear as a New Yorker within driving distance of these sites. :)
Every system with Domination seems to have their own variation of how to play the game. In the case of Lasertron it will be about changing the "tubing" at each sector from neutral to either red or green.
I was curious to learn about Battle Company because it was a name that I did not initially recognize...however, when I stopped by their booth I did recognize their equipment! This gave me a moment of questioning my own memory and when I was approached I said I hope it didn't sound rude, but what I was looking at looked a lot like Laser Tag Pro. Well, the answer was that's because in fact it was formerly Laser Tag Pro and they have simply gone through a re-branding with a new name. And they had a really fun way to try out their system at their booth. Playing off the popularity of a hot current video game they set up "Fort Battle" with a little wooden fort where people could try out a game using their equipment. The goal is to shoot at a target enough times to make the walls fall down. It was fun!
When a young man happened by the booth while I was there we were matched up to play a round and set up on opposite sides of the fort. It was a good time and nice to play a light game!
LaserMaxx Evo6 has not yet made its way to the U.S., so seeing it for myself was a real treat. The only incarnation of LaserMaxx that I have experienced firsthand was Laser Trooper at Kip's site down in Topeka, KS. Well Kip was at their booth along with Mitchell (who I had met in Kansas), Bran and David from the Netherlands showcasing this system where the word of the day was "durability". It seemed like everyone at this show wanted to show me just how rough you could be with their equipment to hammer home the point that it was durable...in fact I'm almost surprised nobody actually brought out a hammer! LaserMaxx was definitely the one that seemed to get deliberately dropped the hardest. When I was treating the pack delicately out of habit they insisted I drop the phaser and had no hesitation with throwing the entire pack on the ground...I am told they have tested driving a vehicle over it. Well, having seen more than a few phasers hit the ground over the years I can appreciate the importance of truly durable equipment. I also got to see the variations in the phaser options available in Europe where customers can opt for either a black phaser or clear molded plastic like this one.
LaserTag.com by Zone:
One of the things I was particularly excited to see for myself was the new Helios 2. Before I left for this trip I had gotten specific requests from blog readers about wanting to see this, so I made a particular point to get over to the Lasertag.com by Zone booth a couple of times. The Helios 2 had only been out for about three weeks as of the time IAAPA took place, so this was as new as I could have asked to see.
After looking at the newest from Zone I expressed interest in the Phasor Strike pack hanging next to it on the rack. Jack laughed as he jokingly said "don't look at that, it's only for the South American market," but gave me a chance to check it out nonetheless.
I returned to the booth the next day and was in time to watch as Erik Guthrie, VP of Sales, gave a brief description of the Helios 2 features to a group of potential customers who had gathered around. I learned that they have magnetic charging connections and run a self diagnostic report after every game with links to youtube for on-the-spot solutions. Part of Erik's demonstration was to say to me "here, catch" as he tossed the pack on the ground in front of me in yet another durability demonstration. I'm impressed that these days there are so many laser tag products that are designed to take the abuse that they will inevitably go through later on.
I met some wonderful people and had especially nice chats with Victor and Jeremy from the Zone team. However, one particularly nice surprise was getting to meet Patrick Holmes, the chairman of Zone Laser Tag Group. I have known his name and it was really great to have an opportunity to meet him.
Comments or Questions?
Websites: www.tiviachickloveslasertag.com and www.photonforever.com