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Ready Player One

30 October 2017 | Blog Posts

As we approach our official one year anniversary of the launch of the P1AG brand, our general manager, Joe McCullagh, spoke to InterGame about his thoughts on where the industry is headed, new challenges for operators, and excitement for what's to come.


Player One operates the Playdium chain of family entertainment centres across its native Canada and in the US. The company will use this year’s IAAPA to further introduce its total solutions approach to the business and how these offerings can help its customers better serve their guests, according to Joe McCullagh, general manager at Player One. “This means demonstrating how the concept can help choose equipment leasing right through to new site design and onsite opening support.”

He said that P1AG, as it is abbreviated and becoming widely known, “is all about offering comprehensive programmes and solutions that make getting into – and staying in – the game more easily.”

The days of industry downtown, said McCullagh, are clearly now over. “We are all enthusiastic about the health of our industry. There are many innovative things happening in the amusement business right now and we are seeing many customers making the most of this by building truly impressive venues. The challenge for operators now is how to make the smartest and most strategic investments that will have a lasting impact for their players and for their customers.”

The market is changing. New types of venues, fresh ideas into existing locations, a whole new genre of location and the P1AG examples like Playdium are prime demonstrations of what can be done. His group has a full range of choices, including the new adult-entertainment venue with a bar, which McCullagh said is a unique operating environment and needs a very specific equipment mix. “With our 35,000 pieces of equipment deployed today we see what works best in each unique environment and we then build the best possible, customized solution.”

Of the new technologies coming into the market, McCullagh picked out virtual reality as something interesting and different. “We’re leading the charge with this product,” he said. “In fact, we have no fewer than five different VR programmes in active testing. We are watching how the guests react with each, how VR changes the environment of a venture and what impact it has on location operators. We know VR will continue to evolve. There are some new entrants and a few existing companies, but the bottom line is the play value, ease of use and content: those factors will dictate what will happen.”

The North American market, he said, has changed considerably in the past year. P1AG has seen a great deal of expansion, with the company operating coast to coast both as a distributor and as an operator. “We have talented leaders all across the US working at thousands of locations that each tell a slightly different story. Combined, it makes for a really rich view of the North American market place and what optimally works best to create an exceptional entertainment experience.”

The company has a very mixed customer and location base so it is not easy to indicate where the best levels of demand are being experienced, but McCullagh said that growth was evident in most sectors, notably in FECs, bowling and trampoline locations. Amusements can be a nice second or third revenue line for many operators.”

From the players’ perspective, what was coming through strongly in P1AG’s experience was what McCullagh described as “premiumization.” “You cannot beat great, well-maintained equipment, with cool prizes in an environment that is well taken care of,” he said.

For McCullagh and his colleagues, the annual sojourn to Orlando’s Orange County Convention Center for IAAPA can be likened to a pilgrimage. “The show is very important to us and to our customers and partners. From our point of view, we are there to both exhibit and to participate. Personally, I love to be in our booth and interact with our customers and meet all kinds of new people, particularly those just starting up in the business.”

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