Located in Westfield Miranda (Sydney) and Garden City (Brisbane), Machine Head is the world’s first full-body pinball game. Installed in unconventional retail areas (the underside of an escalator and three structural pillars), our state-of-the-art technology transformed these spaces into a virtual pinball arcade.
Westfield wanted to engage with their visitors in a fun and innovative way in their new Australian flagships. To do this, they tasked tkm9 Group with converting two unconventional spaces into interactive play zones.
The first converted zone was the underside of an escalator. Using 15 HD screens, we created a bespoke video wall that cleverly housed a directional sound system and depth camera.
The second installation was trickier. Here, we converted three structural pillars into playable interactive zones. Each pillar is clad from top to bottom with eight screens (two portrait screens per side), a custom-fit sound system and depth cameras meaning we created 12 interactive zones in a tiny footprint.
In both sites, visitors have completely fallen in love with the highly addictive Machine Head. The leader board currently sits at more than 10 million points, which is a bit embarrassing as our developers’ highest score was 2.5 million.
Of all our challenges, the greatest was limited space. To run a game like Machine Head, you need PCs with a lot of grunt, and those beasts aren’t small. On top of this, we also needed to install and conceal multiple sound systems and cameras and devise a simple way of accessing the internals without having to dismantle the pillar.
For the escalator installation, we knew we wanted to create a large video wall and the space was ideal for this. The challenge here was finding a way to install and conceal our cameras and sound system while maximizing the space.
Our other major challenge came from the Machine Head game itself. We needed to create a game that shoppers would fall in love with and wasn’t simply a gimmick. At the same time, we had to ensure it was instantly gettable and incredibly easy to play for the first time.
Our solution for the pillars was particularly creative as we housed four high-spec PCs, depth cameras, sound systems, cooling and pillars in a tiny space. We overcame this by creating a hinge system, meaning we could open the entire pillar with ease.
For the escalator installation, we drew inspiration from the shape of traditional pinball machines. We noticed there was a lot of dead/unused space in our bottom middle screen because of the pinball table shape. This was our eureka moment, and we decided to remove this screen completely and conceal our audio and cameras in its place. If you watch the video, you might notice the strange shape of the video wall.
From an education perspective, we kept our instructions as simple as possible – “Flick your arms to move the flippers.” We knew that once people got this, they’d naturally experiment and intuitively learn and unlock more features.
The installation of Machine Head in both locations has been a huge success, so much so that we are currently creating modular versions so Westfield can activate more centers around the country.
The reasons for this become obvious if you look at our in built-in analytics:
• On any given weekday, Machine Head is played about 1,395 times
• This jumps up to a staggering 2,430 on weekend days
• The average visitor spends approx. four minutes playing
• The personalized leader board currently sits at 101,560 (that’s a lot of practice)
• The average player is male and between 16 and 20-years-old (a demographic that would normally stay home to play games)