X2 finds global success
As the industry looks forward to both the RAAPA and DEAL shows, Helen Fletcher caught up with a British company that has successfully sold units to Russia and the Middle East – FX Simulation.
FX Simulation has been operating and manufacturing two-seat coin-operated simulators for over 10 years now. Ever since the installation of its first U2 Mirage at a Hollywood Bowl in Glasgow, UK, it’s been profit sharing with sites, while profiting from operating knowledge and manufacturing experience.
Today from FX’s headquarters near St Andrews in Scotland, it operates over 20 simulators worldwide. From Europe to the Middle East, those simulators generate a sustained income stream for the company. But that’s not the half of it. Through the SMS technology embedded in all the simulators, FX technicians can monitor the operation of the simulators. By sending one text message they instantly receive back temperature levels, ride status and usage figures. They can even set an alert text to be sent if the simulator has been turned off – handy to know on a Friday night.
Furthermore, operating its own simulators has given FX an in-depth understanding of what the operator wants. "We want our operating simulators to be reliable and operating as much as possible; any downtime and we are losing money," said John Fleming, managing director. "That’s why we use the best components we can buy. In some cases we don’t know how good a part is or how it will react to being shaken around until we actually fit it and test it."
Following on from this perspective, FX monitors all the faults and breakdowns and tracks them back to individual parts. These kind of failures are monitored across all machines. If a part fails more than a set amount of times, it is taken out of production and a better quality replacement is introduced. Thus ensuring no downtime and subsequently no loss of revenue.
Of course, it’s not just FX which doesn’t want to see its simulators off or broken down. Customers like the Trocadero and Namco (UK) who operate their own simulators need reliability too. With the X2 they get a two-year warranty. "Most customers are very impressed with our two-year warranty," said Carla Fleming, FX sales director. "It gives them confidence in the product and re-assures them that they are buying a high quality simulator. Financially it gives them two years to get back their initial investment without having to worry about big repair bills."
In truth, however, most customers will get their money back in one year. The reality is that the X2 is designed and built to operate for over 10 years. And with the flexibility of eight interchangeable rides the income of the simulator will remain steady throughout its operating life. Through operating its own simulators, this is something FX has intimate knowledge of. In fact, its first simulator at Hollywood Bowl in Glasgow did over a thousand pounds for its first week and then on its three-year anniversary again did over a thousand pounds. The week before its three-year anniversary the rides were changed. The strong earning residuals of the X2 and flexibility to change the rides make it a long term income stream for any site.
FX Simulation’s decision to operate its own simulators is undeniably one of its strengths. "We couldn’t’ imagine not operating our own simulators," added John Fleming. "What we learn from operating is invaluable and gives us an insight into what challenges the operator faces."
Dubai has proven a great operating market for FX Simulation; its simulators have operated since 2004 in Wafi, Lamcy and city centre malls among others. A service and support base in Dubai gives them parts and technicians on call should the need arise. Income figures for all these malls show clearly the earning potential and the popularity of the simulators.
Malls in neighbouring countries seem to be following Dubai’s lead. Last year FX installed a simulator in the Diamond of the East mall in Mashad, Iran.
It’s not just malls in the Middle East that work with FX Simulation on its revenue sharing scheme. The UK’s Metro Centre (owned by CSC group), Overgate (owned by Lendlease) and various McArthur Glen sites have simulators belonging to the company operating in them. Even the Dolce Vita mall in Oporto, Portugal, which won the International Council of Shopping Centres award for best mall in 2007, has an X2 simulator in the main lobby.
It would seem that operating simulators halfway around the world would take a lot of effort and time. Not necessarily, according to Alan Fleming, FX’s operations director. "Regular contact with sites is the key; it’s important that they know we are working with them. We try and visit every site every couple of months to make sure the managers are happy with the simulator and work on ways to increase income." This research and personal on-site attention is an important part of product development. "It’s important to spend a day next to a simulator and ask customers for feedback on rides. After all, they are the people who are putting their money in it. If there’s something they don’t like we have to account for it." Quite often design changes have come from this attention to detail.
Moscow may be home to the most billionaires in the world, but it’s also one of FX’s biggest export markets. With installations in Murmansk, Novosibirsk, Kostroma and Moscow, the company has far from saturated the market, but it’s a good start. "Customers in Russia appreciate the build quality and longevity of the X2," said Carla Fleming. "They have no problem paying more money for a better quality product that will last longer. Which is the whole ethos of the X2; it’s not a here today gone tomorrow product."
The X2 has eight high definition rides, using a mixture of live action and computer generated scenarios appealing to as wide an audience as possible. It also has rides which are exclusive to FX Simulation.
And now FX is expanding its range. "Historically we have always just had one product; before it was the U2 and now it’s the X2," said John Fleming. "But with market changes and entry into new territories, we are creating a complete range of simulation products."
Currently FX is developing a smaller and cheaper two-seater motion simulator which will be called the Z2. Going up the scale, it’s also developing a larger, six-seater capsule motion simulator and a 3D cinema theatre system which can hold up to 180 people. "Currently we have nothing to offer the likes of Disney," Carla Fleming added. "A high capacity theme park would overwhelm a two-seater. But now we are developing simulators to handle all sorts of capacities. With our own ride designers and custom theming available we can practically build a simulator to suit the customer’s requirements."
With a first hand understanding of customers’ needs and simulator products with sustained reliability, FX Simulation will certainly be delivering some very promising products onto the market place in the near future.