The $3 million Q-bot

Jeff's avatar
We chatted about this on the podcast this week (will post tonight), but I think it makes for an interesting discussion here. We've talked about it here and there as a peripheral issue, but let's bring it front and center.

Pat mentioned that he read somewhere Six Flags Great Adventure did $3 million in Q-bot revenue. Since the pricing is rental plus guest, it's hard to know the average price per guest paid. Still, that's a lot of money.

For the sake of argument, let's say that the average was $20 per guest, which I'm sure is low. That means the total admission may have been around $60, assuming online pricing of $40 for a ticket. We'll assume season pass holders don't buy these frequently, since they can just return on a less busy day.

The net result though is it costs $60 to visit the park and get some reasonable level of waiting under control. Rides like Medusa and Nitro should eat people, yet the lines are long. People are saying in trip reports that El Toro and Kingda Ka are typically a nightmare as well.

The question I have, is how long can they get away with this? The relatively high end Disney experience can be had for sixty bucks, with free FastPasses for all, high capacity rides and a generally more polished and clean and experience. Presumably people from the tri-state area do get out to Florida now and then and know the difference.

Jeff - Editor - - My Blog

rollergator's avatar
^ Sure, they know the difference....

But time is money, and if you live in the Tri-State (NY/NJ/CT) area, then your time is probably worth quite a a trip to WDW means a week off (Americans apparently don't understand the concept of "vacation" anymore). A day at GAdv, on the other hand, doesn't require a plane, hotel, rental car, etc.

Personally, I'd go to LC (or SFNE if I anticipated a slow day).

I loved the daylights out of Toro.

But since I *truly* get where you're coming from...I think that basically the supply of "non-disgusted potential patrons" is virtually limitless...and the Q-bot total doesn't surprise me IN THE LEAST...I saw that line for rentals on Columbus Day - longer than the lines for Ka *or* Toro....(thankfully, I was on my way OUT of the park). It's a hell hole...

signed, a one-time FAN who grew up going to GAdv... :(

*** Edited 11/13/2006 5:31:48 PM UTC by rollergator***

I've said it before, and I'll say it again:

I'd rather see more parks include a Q-Bot system, then fall into bankruptcy and close down. It's another stream of revenue, and although I've never used one, it could come in handy if you only had a single day at one of the larger parks. Yes, this increases the cost of a day at a park, but it's an add-on, upcharge.

Take SFGAdv, for instance: yeah, lines are long on El Toro and Ka. But they are new, and the lines for everything else in the park are not near as bad. Every time I've been to the park this year (I'll admit, I've been there six times), the lines for everything else had not been terrible.

In other words, unless you wanted to power ride Ka or El Toro, the Q-bot isn't worth it.

Actually it is season pass holders that use qbots. They are the folks that know the park best and know that without one on a weekend the park will be an exercise in futility. They also know that anything worth riding in the park is on the system so getting your moneys worth from the bot is likely.

Also season pass holders who are there often can look at the bot (when needed) as their admission price since they long ago reaped the benefit of the season pass.

The $3 million revenue from bots does not surprise me. On weekend days you almost needed a qbot to get a qbot!! For us it was 1. get thru the gate 2. wait for the rope drop 3. run to Flash Pass 4. Get the bot and go to El Toro or KK whichever was open first. 5. Scan for the ride 6. Beat 99% of the crowd onto the ride.

Lord Gonchar's avatar
But here's the beauty of it - if you spend that $60 or $80 for a q-bot your day isn't all that bad in terms of rides and waiting. I don't think these people are getting as pissed as we think they are.

I think that because of similar reasons to Gator - location. There's a higher cost of living in that whole east coast metro area and incomes to match. $60 or $80 is not the same as $60 or $80 in the heartland.

I also think it's interesting that Dorney only draws about half the attendance of SFGAdv. Look at the distances:

NYC to Dorney = 92 miles
NYC to SFGAdv = 68 miles

Philly to Dorney = 60 miles
Philly to SFGAdv = 51 miles

I can't even justify it with the 'people stay local' theory.

Couple that with Gator's 'endless guest supply' & 'time is money' approach and they're good to go in Jersey.

I know I stretch things to make points quite often when it comes to SF business practices, but perhaps there's a better way to think of it.

- $80 (admission and Gold bot) get you the top experience
- $60 (admission and Standard bot) get you the average experience
- $40 (admission) gets you the basic experience

In a weird sort of way it's almost like they offer various levels of service and if they're really selling that many FlashPasses (and from all accounts they are), then someone doesn't mind ponying up to have a decent day.

I still don't have a problem with it. I think it's a viable source of revenue that all parks could take advantage of regardless of how efficient their operations are. So far SF is the only company that's really run with the concept. Universal switched from the free system to pay-to-play and Dollywood is just starting to experiment with Q-bot on a smaller level.

How can any park operator see those Q-bot numbers and not at least wonder how it would fly at their park(s)?

*** Edited 11/13/2006 5:56:53 PM UTC by Lord Gonchar***

Jeff's avatar

Arson said:
I'd rather see more parks include a Q-Bot system, then fall into bankruptcy and close down.
I think that's totally an enthusiast perspective. While I respect your opinion, I think Joe Consumer could care less. One park closes, there's always another to go to.

Clearly people will put up with the situation and buy these things, because that's what's happening. I'm not debating that. My question is how long do you think the joy is going to last? Is it sustainable income? With the Holiday Worlds and Schlitterbahns of the world, I gotta think that in the long run consumers will say they've had enough of the three-pronged admission ding (parking, admission, preferred ride boarding).

Jeff - Editor - - My Blog

rollergator's avatar
edit: Jeff's post beat mine to the thread (finish line?), LOL...

^^ I kinda prefer the model CF is going with at this point...double the SP price, get the money up-front, all at once, then the customers aren't stuck waiting in lines to pay more money just to get in line for a ride....(in particular, look to Jeff's mention of HW & Schlitterbahn - which is *also* going to free soft drinks).

Then again, I'm sure CF has considered their options re: VQing, and my guess is that after the "trial run" with Freeway, they've decided to simply run rides at the appropriate capacity and keep doing what's obviously been working well for them for a LONG time.

Flip side? CF never put themselves in $2.2B debt in the first place... ;)

*** Edited 11/13/2006 6:12:59 PM UTC by rollergator***

Lord Gonchar's avatar

Jeff said:
With the Holiday Worlds and Schlitterbahns of the world, I gotta think that in the long run consumers will say they've had enough of the three-pronged admission ding (parking, admission, preferred ride boarding).

I'm a firm believe that we (enthusiast) underestimate what people are willing to pay for their few park visits.

And here's why this mentality would never fly at HW...location! (that magic word again :) )

I scored a sandwich from a local pizza shop for pocket change when we stayed in the area (southern IN). I could've gotten two or three sandwiches for the price of a pack of smokes in NY/NJ. The cost of things is much less in general.

On top of that, if HW does the same attendance as this year in 2007 they'll average just under 8500 guests a day - SF does 2 to 3 times that on average and 4 times that on their busiest days. Q-bot is not a 'small park' thing. (is HW a 'small' park? ;) )

There's no need, no desire and the business structure is all wrong for the area.

How long will the joy last?

It's just beginning. :)

*** Edited 11/13/2006 6:22:10 PM UTC by Lord Gonchar***

Jeff's avatar
Are you sure you can't attribute the joy to the construction of $25 million rides? I mean, I've gotta think that's a contributing factor to attendance and Q-bot revenue. We know that cycle can't last forever.

Jeff - Editor - - My Blog

I've used a Q-bot just once, when I had six hours to explore Six Flags New England before a transatlantic flight.

I don't like the idea as a whole though I appreciate it's a revenue earner for the park. In the case of Six Flags, however, my real problem with it is where it is used on rides which are being run well below capacity; a B&M on single train operation, for example. Half capacity means that the regular punter suffers far longer waits then they should have to, and this is exacerbated by Q-Bots.

If, as stated elsewhere, the only rides that you really need a Qbot for are KK and The Bull, because the other coasters don't have lines that long-- then it means that you have 3 million in income vs. 40 million plus in expenditures. Is that a good rate of return? (I don't know-- I'm asking the experts).

Another thing, if the Bots are only good for the biggest and newest coasters, the only way to sustain that income is to keep constructing "Qbo-table" attractions. How does that fit in with Shapiro's fewer big coasters policy?

How hard would it have been to make 3 million or more in revenue by raising Season Pass prices? Sure they would have lost some people-- but mostly the unruly teen crowd they're worried about in the first place. The remaining people would have a more enjoyable time and SF would be ahead of the game without having additional charges.

Of course, if your whole business plan is to get as many people squeezed into the park as possible then hit them with charge after charge once they're in there, SF is going about it the right way. Then they just have to worry about the 12-12 percent loss in attendance.

Jeff said:

Clearly people will put up with the situation and buy these things, because that's what's happening. I'm not debating that. My question is how long do you think the joy is going to last? Is it sustainable income? With the Holiday Worlds and Schlitterbahns of the world, I gotta think that in the long run consumers will say they've had enough of the three-pronged admission ding (parking, admission, preferred ride boarding).

How many of the people that go to the "Q-bot" parks have even *heard* of HW and Schlitterbahn? Maybe, *maybe* there will be a backlash at SFNE (due to Lake Compounce) or SFKK (because of HW), but why should that impact SFGAdv? There has to be some concept of "comparable goods" to get people to see that contrast and, right now, I'd bet you'd be hard pressed to find a normal GAdv patron who has any knowledge of this 'alternate pricing structure'.

Aside from amusment parks, tons of 'entertainment venues' dink and dunk you with parking fees, entertainment taxes, convience fees, etc.. I think the public is far less finiky (sp?) about pricing *as a whole* as some here seem to believe. Across the board you are seeing "value added services" for additional cost. Whether it be front of the line access, extended park hours, backstage tours, upcharge attractions, parks are implementing them for one reason, people will pay for it!

Ancecdotal evidence: A co-worker (non-enthusiast) went to GAdv - 2 adults 3 kids. Sprung for a 3 person Gold Q-bot and said he had a blast. He would not *think* fo going back there without the Gold Q-bot, not because the regular admission is "a rip off" but because the upgraded service and convience was "worth it" to him. He told me that a couple in line with them asked why his wait was shorter than theirs with the regular q-bot. When he replied that he had gold, they didnt get mad at him or the system, they were frustrated with themselves for not getting the gold and vowed to do so next time.

As you know, I'm definitely not morally opposed to q-bot. Quite the opposite, I'm an avid supporter, but I do share RBs concern about running under capacity. That irritates me.
lata, jeremy
PlaceHolder for Castor & Pollux

rollergator's avatar
At proper capacity, the people who HAD the Gold-bot on Columbus Day would've waited probably 20 minutes for Ka/Toro...

Granted, FAR from an *average* day for GAdv....but when you have the MOST people, that's when you have the most to gain (or lose) in terms of goodwill....

The capacity thing irritates both regular patron AND botters....SFI cannot afford to irritate those guests who ARE willing to spend freely....biting the feeding hand, so to speak... ;)

Jeff's avatar

2Hostyl said:
How many of the people that go to the "Q-bot" parks have even *heard* of HW and Schlitterbahn?
That wasn't really my point. What I was getting at, perhaps not clearly, is that these are trends of some of the most successful operations in the industry today, especially in terms of growth and customer satisfaction. I know as a matter of fact that there are other parks and/or companies watching them very closely. I think the trend will spread.

I really think that people are going to be more picky about how they spend their leisure dollars, and parks have more to compete with than just other parks. Again, I think this is a short-term gain predicated on the construction of new rides.

Jeff - Editor - - My Blog

janfrederick's avatar
I believe it is all about psychology. Of course you want guests to spend as much money as possible, but don't forget why they are going there in the first place: to forget about the outside world. Don't continually mess with their experience by holding out your hand and saying "ahem."

Then go ahead and build mucho souvenier shops near the exit and say "ahem." They'll have had such a wonderful escape, they'll want something to remind them of it when they resume their grindstone work.

"I go out at 3 o' clock for a quart of milk and come home to my son treating his body like an amusement park!" - Estelle Costanza
rollergator's avatar
^ Why couldn't *I* have said that so succinctly? :)
I get the gold qbot alot.

You have to take into account the area. I live on long island and a lot of the time traffic in the city is horrid. normally it takes about 1 hour 45 minutes leaving at 7am to get to GADV.

Getting home takes 3 hours because of traffic.

Its bad enough I have to deal with the traffic. I dont want to have to deal with the long lines that gadv can have ,so, to me the gold qbot is worth it.

I have to think as a whole that you have to run your rides at a maximum capacity, to give the majority of your consumers the best experience possible. Giving the Q-bot to the people that are willing to pay for it is simply a premium service available to the consumers that may be short of time, the wealthy, the guy that hates to wait in lines, or the consumer who is willing to pay for it. When I am on vacation there many times that I have the opportunity to spent more money on premium services, airline, rental car, hotel, etc.... If it is something that the consumer is to pay for then I can’t see it disappearing.
sirloindude's avatar
I am entertaining the possibility that perhaps it is a debt-reduction plan. Think, Q-bots generate revenue while the rides, running at low capacity, save some money off of the operating costs for full-capacity operation.

13 Boomerang, 9 SLC, and 8 B-TR clones

Another thing to think about the general public is that some people will also drop a couple hundred dollars to go to a football game with the drinks, food, souveniers, ect. And that could be for just two people, and that is also for about a 3-4 hour game. Although I would rather sit at home and watch a football game at home than spend that kind of money to go, others feel differently, just like I chose not to get a Q-bot at Great Adventure the one time I have been, but others did. I still enjoyed my time. It is just a sence of value.

25 Parks..............
123 Coasters........
....and still going!

Imagine the Crystal Beach Cyclone with a Gerstlauer train

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