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Our thoughts on haunt batching…

We’ve lost count of the times that we’ve had an experience ruined by poor batching.

It seems like such a simple thing yet a lot of places manage to get it wrong. We say ‘seems’ because even though it can annoy the hell out of us when it’s bad, when we really start thinking about, it doesn’t appear to be so straight-forward.

It’s easy to over simplify – a haunt takes on average X amount of minutes to get through so can accommodate Y number of people per hour, meaning you can batch in groups of Z people and not have a conga line. It makes sense but then you’re not taking into consideration the most unpredictable variable; people. We’re sure that most people who will read this are, like us, fans and therefore probably acquit themselves fairly well in haunts, not curling up into the tiniest ball as a snarling clown looms over them. But we’ve been there and witnessed it when people do basically stop functioning.

We’ve caught up with groups batched ahead of us so many times and, on more than one occasion, offered to take the lead with that group, just so we don’t spend fifteen minutes in a five minute haunt. And we’ve been in a position several times where the group just completely stalls and we end up standing around, talking to pass the time.

The most glaring example of this was with Xtreme Scream Park’s ‘The Village’ last year. This was a haunt that everyone absolutely raved about – expectations were through the roof and being completely fair, we could see why. However, our visit was totally ruined by terrible batching. It felt like every thirty seconds we were deliberately stopping for about a minute to let the group ahead move on, only to hit them again half a minute later! It continued like this throughout the whole maze and the finale was the worst offender, we could see that the lead actor here was enjoying terrifying people but he probably did his job a little too well, causing people to freeze up and backing up the line something bad. We could see how amazing that haunt could have been but we just didn’t get it and it was 100% down to the batching and crowd management.

The opposite can sometimes happen. Our visit to Broadwitch in 2016 was a bit of a revelation. Every single haunt allowed us in as a pair, the first time it happened, it took us aback. The person at the entrance of the haunt even made us wait a decent while to ensure that we didn’t catch up with those in front. They really cared about offering a genuine experience and to answer the obvious question now; it was fairly busy although it was a Sunday so maybe not as busy as they’re used to.

So, what would we like to see? We did think about adding the option to go enter a haunt in a private group as an upcharge, like fast track passes but then think that’s a bit of overkill, offering two tiers of upcharge just to provide an experience that you should, in the perfect world, be getting with standard entry. But then we think that fast track purchases should consider incorporating this into their offering.

If not that, then maybe a ticket that offers entry to an exclusive timeslot, either an hour before or after the park’s normal operating hours where, in this time, there are no mixed parties batched. To make it more enticing, they could be amplified experiences, a bit like Fright Nights’ old Brave it Alone experiences. Because we know that events can’t afford to let too many single party batches in during normal operating hours.

As much as we hate to admit it, if private batch upcharges were reasonable, we would likely go for them. Something doesn’t sit right about paying more money to effectively permit events to oversubscribe their attractions but when we think back to how utterly miserable our experience was at Halloween Horror Nights, we’d totally hand over a little extra to get that premium experience.

But yeah, the problem with that is that it sends the message to events that they can admit more people than the attractions can handle. As the root of the issue, especially in the case of HHN, is that some of these events are allowing way too many people in. We understand that the smaller events need as many people through the doors as possible to turn any kind of profit so would definitely be more amenable to them offering private batch tickets.

What do you think? Is offering a different tier of ticket that offers smaller batches a step too far? And would you pay for it? Let us know!

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  1. Leonard Pickel

    February 6, 2018 at 1:26 pm

    You have to put yourself in the position of the business owner, because a haunt is a business, and as a business, it has to make money, or it fails. Some attractions are victims of their own success. If HHR slowed down it’s conga line into “batches” (I would call it groups) there would be riots in the slow moving lines. As it is, you cannot stand in line and see every attraction.

    Timed ticketing, smaller groups, scre forward acting style, good haunt design can all help to keep groups from running into each other, but the reality is, If you feel yourself catching up with the group ahead of you, slow down. Hold a reset gap for a better show.

  2. ScareAddicts

    February 6, 2018 at 4:59 pm

    Yep – agree with you – had a quick flick over to your site and see you’ve already posted about a similar topic – it’s absolutely about getting that balance right between getting as many people through and not diluting the experience. And we totally want these places to be profitable – means they’re more likely to return the following season, open out of season and take more risks in the future!

    The only thing I’d say about holding back (which is something we do a fair bit as we know guests are a variable no-one really has control over) is that you can only do it so many times before the experience is ruined, like we mentioned in the post using ‘The Village’ as an example. We occasionally visit attractions where something is fundamentally flawed and haunts are effectively a product that customers pay for – it’s akin to watching a film in the cinema that skips and stutters every few minutes. Of course, with all the will in the world, attraction owners can’t predict exactly what will happen on any given night!

    Will have a good look around your site later – fascinating to see things from the other side of the fence!

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