What's new

Are B&M stagnating?

Rupert

Member
I was going to start a new thread but this is as good a place as any for the discussion (though please move as appropriate).
[Yeah, might as well - Pokemaniac.]

Based on Pokemaniac’s post above [moderator's note: in the Surf Coaster thread], and also the “Next European Park to get a B&M” topic, I was thinking about how B&M have really stagnated over the years - their ‘new’ products (launched coaster, wing coaster) are really just variations of the standard sit-down coaster.

I see two main areas that hold them back: train design and track design. I’m not sure how true this is though so I’m going to write some statements and it would be good to get input.

Their train design - minimum 4-across seating - is so wide that manoeuvrability is reduced, as they need to create heartlining that isn’t too extreme for the outer seats. Elements have to be even more drawn-out on the wing and dive coasters. Does this lead them to stay within a more limited design range? The majority of other manufacturers for the most part have two-across seating, and though Gerstlauer are an obvious exception their cars are pretty nimble and narrower.

The box design of B&M track also hasn’t changed since the Giovanola days, whilst every other manufacturer has iterated. Sure it took Vekoma a while, and Intamin have about 5 types on the market, but B&M have barely changed. Does this boxy track also limit their profiling? I can’t see it being able to pull off the elements of RMC, Intamin, Gerst or the new Vekomas. But would B&M ever change towards the tube spine favoured by the others?

Finally on top of this there is B&M’s perceived reluctance to create forces too far outside their comfort zone - mostly floater rather than ejector airtime for example. Is this really the case? (the intensity of pretzel rolls feels like an anomaly, and the Batman high gs feels like a thing of the past) Do they need to higher a new-gen young designer like Intamin and Vekoma have done? Are parks going to buy the standard B&M products when other companies are building wilder, crazier, more marketable rides?

I feel they need to mix something up to get out of this stagnation, and I wonder if the surf coaster will really be the thing to do it.
 
Last edited by a moderator:

Crazycoaster

Active Member
B&M actually has a range of different track options available, but because they look the same, it's hard to notice. The smaller track for something like the Family Inverts they made in china, all the way up to the huge track for the dive coasters. Not only that, the track spine is adaptable to take more force if needed (by thickening it in specific places). I doubt they'd adapt to a tube spine simply because it's not necessary.

4 across seating isn't the minimum either, again look at the family inverts. They can adapt when a customer wants it. They're the only manufacturer that can produce 4 across seating successfully without issue (Gerst coasters ride rough as hell, Intamin have had huge problems with their 4 across such as Hyperion riding rough etc).

While you may think they have stagnated, they're in a successful place building multiple coasters every year, and the reason is because they're hugely reliable, and smooth every time. That's their USP, and they've built their brand on that. They don't push the boat out as far as others, they sit back and invest in technology once they know they can perfect it.
 

Pokemaniac

Mountain monkey
Staff member
Administrator
Moderator
I'd say B&M's biggest problem is that their coasters all come in very large sizes. Both Wing coasters, Hypers, and Dive Machines are by definition absolutely massive. It's the kind of coaster that's a once-in-a-decade investment even for fairly large parks. Small parks can't afford them at all. Likewise, the rest of B&M's lineup, with Inverts and sit-down loopers and the like which small parks can afford, face stiff competition from other manufacturers offering equivalent rides for cheaper. B&M Inverts may yet have the upper hand over Vekoma (and ... Intamin, I guess?), but why build a B&M looper if Mack can offer more flexibility for a lower price? Why build a small, short Dive Machine when Gerstlauer can offer a longer layout with half as much digging required? And if you're not after white-knuckle, big-box, high-trill coasters at all, there's not much B&M can offer you. You can find equivalent family coasters to their offering for a much cheaper price from other manufacturers.

They operate within a niche, but it's an expensive niche that's mainly targeted towards large parks built from the ground up with heavy investor backing. B&M barely sells coasters in Europe or the US anymore (9 in total in 2016-2021, compared to 19 in 2010-2015), and what they're selling is, increasingly, a very limited range of products to a very limited range of parks. It will be interesting to see if they'll change their course, if parks will begin to afford their coasters again, or if they will go all-out on the Chinese market.

Also, I split off the discussion to a separate thread. It's an interesting topic I think we should give more space than we can have in the Surf Coaster thread.

EDIT: threw together this from RCDB. It's a bit late for me to address its implications in this post, but feel free to use it as a reference for further discussion.

1601663278915.png
 
Last edited:

Joey

Well-Known Member
I mean, if it ain't broke?

I kinda object to innovative wackiness for the sake of it. Like sure, innovation brings with it some wild progress... And of course I'm not absolutist on that point - we need innovation and innovations to fail for the progression towards good stuff that sticks. But where other companies will just throw stuff at the wall and see what sticks, many designs of which never get made or don't get bought up by a park for years... B&M have a completely different business model, and one which runs on brand established quality.

But, quality in delivering a pain free, working peice of hardware for the client is all well and good... But it does come at the cost of not being flamboyant enough for the marketing department to entice new customers. Supposedly. Maybe. Probably.

I think @Pokemaniac's point is an interesting one - B&M went from being THE manufacturer the big boys in the Western world went with almost exclusively, to seemingly just not being part of the discussion at all very abruptly.

Whether that's because China is just eating up all their work and they're booked out, or if it's a case of no one in the West can afford / thinks the investment is worth it... Who knows.

B&M's experimentation ... "recently" (I'm old get over it) with the likes of the Wing Rider and that family coaster was... I mean. Lame. It's lame. Does anyone WANT to see B&M be experimental?

I wrote a thing about Dive Coasters a few years back that kinda explores the same idea as my previous sentence there. That B&M trying to do a new thing is just sad fart sounds, and arguably has been since 1998.

The thing about innovation for the sake of it is that without a driving reason for the innovation, you don't have a context for it to exist - and often the forcing of it into a box is so obvious and awkward. You don't have a thing you wanna say with it. You don't have a thing you wanna do with it. The world isn't prepped for it. The world isn't asking for it. Sometimes you get lucky and the world just didn't know it needed it, but I feel like when it comes to tech for use in entertainment especially, we should start with "ok what do we want to say?"

The problem with coasters is they're made by stuffy old men who know to crunch numbers but not make art, frankly. There's nothing wrong with that, but it's a weird way to go about creating entertainment, ya know? Technical confines are important and they lead to creative solutions, but that isn't and kinda never has happened in the theme park sphere, either. It's just a weird old world. And B&M are like the absolute extreme example of that stuffy old men thing. A friend once said their booth at IAPPA was like a dentist's waiting room whilst Vekoma's was like a cool bar. Like, yeah.

I'm rambling.
 

cookie

Member
I don't think they need innovation as much as they need the ability to flex in accordance with the demands of the market. Even their family inverted coasters in China still use the large, bulky, and probably very expensive box-shaped track designs, and how many parks are going to spring for that when Vekoma can give you basically the same thing at a likely much lower cost and has been doing so for twenty years now?

I mean their designs are great for their usual monster-sized coasters, but I don't see how they could ever break into the family/small park market with the way they continue to operate.
 
Last edited:

Matt N

Well-Known Member
I don’t think they’ve stagnated; I actually prefer their newer rides to their older rides, on the whole! I personally think that B&M as a manufacturer are somewhat underappreciated in the modern day enthusiast community; they may not be doing coasters filled with quad downs and fancy elements in the way that some other manufacturers are, but I think buying a B&M comes with a guarantee of a really good, fun, comfortable ride that will be a real crowd pleaser, as well as one that will have great capacity and reliability. B&M sell themselves on consistency and assured quality (that “tried and tested” factor) as opposed to innovation, and I think that that is arguably what makes them so revered.

As much as enthusiasts generally view them with antipathy and disappointment these days, things like the B&M hypers (as an example) appeal to a very wide demographic of park goers, and are real crowd pleasers. They may all be pretty similar and might not provide sensations as extreme as those of some other coasters, but they appeal to a broad demographic and have been really successful over the 21 years they’ve been getting built for; as the saying goes, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. Same goes with the other B&M ride types.

With regards to their current predicament and reduced number of sales, I personally think it comes down to one thing. B&M arguably rewrote the rulebook for building steel coasters when they first began building in the early 1990s, and to great success; as soon as things like the inverted coaster, an absolute revolution of its time, hit the market, they were arguably the must-have manufacturer in the way that RMC and co are now (possibly even more so). Because of this initial huge success, they have stuck to that rulebook to the letter over the years, but the problem they’re facing now is not that what they’re building is any worse than it was in the 1990s, in my opinion. It’s that the steel coaster rulebook has been rewritten once again by companies like Intamin and RMC, and less “conventional” (for lack of a better term) coasters are becoming far more popular. B&M are arguably a company who took conventional and pretty much mastered it; this was all well and good for them when conventional coasters were popular, but when far less conventional coasters became popular (probably from about the mid to late 2000s onwards, accelerating in the 2010s with the dawn of RMC), they were a little bit stuck.

Despite what I said above, however, I don’t think they need to majorly reinvent the wheel or try to keep up. I think there will always be a demand for the type of ride B&M provides, and a lot of parks do like the quality ride experience and sleek design of a B&M. I know the box track and general B&M design philosophy has stayed pretty much the same ever since their first coaster back in 1990, but I’d argue that B&Ms have quite a timeless feel to them compared with some other companies’ coasters from a similar era. Take the comparison of Nemesis and the Big One, for example; even though they both opened in 1994, I’d personally argue that Nemesis still looks and feels like quite a modern design, while the Big One definitely feels like a product of its time. And they are making small steps to refine their coasters slightly to meet modern tastes; some of their recent rides have had some more unique elements or have been more unique in general while keeping the ride experience fundamentally very similar.

For me, it all boils down to that saying of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”, and for that reason, I don’t really think they need to change anything, personally.
 

Pokemaniac

Mountain monkey
Staff member
Administrator
Moderator
I kinda object to innovative wackiness for the sake of it. Like sure, innovation brings with it some wild progress...
(...)
B&M went from being THE manufacturer the big boys in the Western world went with almost exclusively, to seemingly just not being part of the discussion at all very abruptly.

Whether that's because China is just eating up all their work and they're booked out, or if it's a case of no one in the West can afford / thinks the investment is worth it... Who knows.
I actually don't think the problem is on B&M's end. What they do, they do well, and their coasters have not become worse over the years. But the demands of the market have changed.

B&M is still one of the "big boy" manufacturers par excellence, and we all cherish the occasion when they build a new coaster. But those occasions don't come as often as they used to. Parks in the West aren't expanding as fast as they once did, and when the big investments come, several companies stand ready to bid for the contracts. We're approach the point where all the Western parks that can afford a B&M already have one, and few parks that don't have a B&M are going to afford one any time soon.

The market is more focusing on compact thrill coasters now. We're talking shuttle launches, family launches, and single-car coasters that can perform tight maneuvers and deliver intense thrills within a minimal footprint and build ceiling. Manufacturers like Gerstlauer, Mack, and Intamin are making big bank off compact models. RMC (and to some degree, Maurer) are building coasters with single-rail tracks enabling pocket-size multiloopers. It simply doesn't happen that often anymore that parks clear out a giant plot of land at their back end and plop down a sprawling coaster with a tall, tall lifthill and several swooping loop-de-loops. Few established parks have the luxury of all that space and money. Nowadays it's all about knocking down a popcorn stall and a flower bed and trying to find a way to cram two inversions into a layout based off three support towers, and a speed above 80 kph without building taller than the tree line.

This can also be illustrated by the wooden coaster market, where tall, conventional woodies have been all but eradicated since the turn of the millennium or so. I mean, when did you last see coasters like Boss, American Eagle, Jupiter, or Monstre? Instead we have GCI and Gravity Group making coasters in the 20-30 m height range, length below a kilometer, while RMC are pimping already-existing huge woodies beyond the point of recognition. We're no longer in the days when parks could draw surprisingly huge coasters out of nowhere.

B&M offer coasters for the rare occasions when big parks put down big money, but the occasions are becoming less frequent and B&M aren't alone in competing for this market segment either. There's at least Intamin, Mack, Vekoma, and RMC ready to bid for these big projects, maybe S&S or Premier too stateside. B&M occasionally wins out, but they're not selling to a wide range of parks.

So yeah, I think the problem isn't on B&M so much as it is on the market situation. B&M are selling wide-body Cadillacs when everybody is demanding Priuses and e-Golfs. What they do, they do well, but their style of coasters aren't so often requested these days.
 

Rupert

Member
Thanks all for the responses, a lot of good points. I don’t really agree that they offer variations in track type - changing spine thickness feels pretty standard practice depending on exerted forces/train weight, in the same way that Intamin and Gerst vary between dual-, tri-, and quad-track on the same coaster. I’ve never really understood why the two inverted family coasters were built, surely they were much more expensive than the Vekoma/Intamin equivalents without really offering anything else. The only change B&M made for the coasters was reducing the train size, and presumably the track thickness as a result.

I agree with the “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” view, but it does mean that they will keep doing more or less the same thing over and over. As we’ve discussed in other threads, the US and European parks either have B&Ms, or will go for another manufacturer for cost or USP reasons. Maybe this is all moot because the Chinese/Asian market clearly still has appetite for B&Ms, though it feels primarily wing & dive coasters. What park in the world would go for a standard B&M sitdown looper over a Vekoma, or Intamin?

I actually don't think the problem is on B&M's end. What they do, they do well, and their coasters have not become worse over the years. But the demands of the market have changed.
I think this is the key point. Parks can buy B&Ms and they’ll be very good and very smooth, but they usually won’t be ground-breaking or particularly interesting. Parks these days want coasters that are both marketable and memorable, so launched spinners, or wacky banking or weird inversion elements. They also want the best coaster for the best price, and there is plenty of quality for a lower price than B&M.

If I was a park, I’d be looking at the designs for the Park Asterix launched, the Walibi Belgium hyper, the Plopsa launched spinner, F.L.Y., Lech, Steel Vengeance, Zadra, Taron, Helix, Taiga etc. All amazing, all individual, all like nothing else around them. B&M offer a classic set of expensive rides that yes are good and reliable, but there is so much of the market they’re not covering.

Edit - I forgot to say, probably the main reason I thought this was that I was at Hansa Park a couple of weeks ago on Karnan and Novgorod thinking, B&M would never have been asked to make these coasters, and would probably never do anything similar.

It’s also apparent from the graph Pokemaniac posted that this approach from B&M is clearly not a problem, their order quantity has remained pretty constant over the years!
 
Last edited:

gavin

Administrator
Staff member
Administrator
Moderator
Social Media Team
Going back to the four-across seating thing. It's been mentioned that they've done 2-across for the family inverts, but they also built new, 2-across trains for Steel Dragon 2000, a coaster which isn't even theirs.

If a park wanted a hyper (or other type) with narrower track and two-across trains, I'm sure B&M would be able to provide it at the right price. It's just whether or not that price ends up being worth it when the 4-across models already exist and other manufacturers have plenty of 2-across designs already on offer.

End up probably paying more for a 2-across B&M hyper since they don't have them yet, or go to Intamin?

Sent from my Redmi Note 7 using Tapatalk
 

Pokemaniac

Mountain monkey
Staff member
Administrator
Moderator
I think this is the key point. Parks can buy B&Ms and they’ll be very good and very smooth, but they usually won’t be ground-breaking or particularly interesting. Parks these days want coasters that are both marketable and memorable, so launched spinners, or wacky banking or weird inversion elements. They also want the best coaster for the best price, and there is plenty of quality for a lower price than B&M.
I think I didn't quite get my point across. It's not like B&M's coasters aren't thrilling enough, but in most cases, even when the park is actively seeking to build a thrill coaster, B&M coasters are simply too big. They haven't expanded into the segment of ultra-compact thrill coasters at all, which is what most parks seek to build these days.

It’s also apparent from the graph Pokemaniac posted that this approach from B&M is clearly not a problem, their order quantity has remained pretty constant over the years!
That's one way to see it. You could also say that, despite having moved into a huge new market, they aren't building any more coasters than they used to.
 

roomraider

Best Topic Starter
I think John Wardley said it best when he dubbed B&M the Rolls Royce of roller coaster manafacturers. B&M follow a similar kind of business model of luxury rides at the high end of the market.

Order numbers havent gone down they've just shifted markets a bit at the moment and B&M have said they never plan to make more than 4 or 5 coasters a year (of course they once said they wouldn't go over 300ft but I digress).

There's a ton of parks in China that I'm keeping an eye on that I fully expect to announce B&M coasters soon and that seems to be their main market at the moment as they offer things the local market just can't do right now. And I think it suits them just fine if they are selling 4 or 5 coasters a year they won't really care.

However there is something to be said for innovation and B&M have seemingly always moved at a glacial pace there. Often trying out 1 new element on a ride (the weird one and a half zero g thing on sky ripper for example). I guess the thing is that so far they haven't needed to innovate. If you want a reliable high capacity and high quality ride you go to B&M. They don't really have any competition at that high end of the market so they haven't needed to innovate so much. It will be interesting to see how the Surf Coaster turns out as when B&M do release a new model it tends to be a refined and reliable ride.

In short they are doing fine. They are building just as many rides as they ever have and their high end high quality rides work for them as a business model so why change it.
 

JoshC.

Active Member
The problem with coasters is they're made by stuffy old men who know to crunch numbers but not make art, frankly. There's nothing wrong with that, but it's a weird way to go about creating entertainment, ya know? Technical confines are important and they lead to creative solutions, but that isn't and kinda never has happened in the theme park sphere, either. It's just a weird old world. And B&M are like the absolute extreme example of that stuffy old men thing. A friend once said their booth at IAPPA was like a dentist's waiting room whilst Vekoma's was like a cool bar. Like, yeah.

This comment reminded me of a decent article on Looopings about some younger people who are playing bigger roles in the industry: https://www.looopings.nl/weblog/128...werpt-achtbanen-voor-over-de-hele-wereld.html

I certainly think we're at the beginning of seeing more and more who have grown up with the likes of RCT, No Limits and even Planet Coaster being able to make more of a mark in the coaster-making process. And these are going to be the type of people who not only can crunch numbers, but have a bigger understanding of the 'art' side of things too. I think that's also becoming more evident with some rides we're currently seeing getting ready to open: the overwhelming positive comments about newer Vekoma and upcoming Intamin projects being the best examples. And there's always chance for more.


Bringing it back to B&M, I don't think they're stagnating per se. It's a weird one in some ways: in the 90s and early 00s, they were one of the biggest innovators around. Modern inverts with inversions, the idea of (an albeit almost) vertical drop, modern flyers. These were all new things. But they were also very obvious gaps in the market, but required top level engineering to achieve. Those innovations were essential, and inevitable. These days, there's significantly less 'types' of rides that have been tried in my opinion. So the need for that sort of innovation is much less. And their position is, whilst they can do different stuff, they offer tried and testing rides, which will give guests good experiences, and usually be reliable pieces of equipment.

So they haven't stagnated, it's just the industry has changed, and their place in the industry has changed as a result. They're a different type of manufacturer to who they were 25 years ago, and that's fine.

Obviously for us as fans, it's somewhat boring seeing them do the same thing over and over, just in different places. But for themselves as a business, they're fine. Though, I do wonder what will happen when the Eastern, particularly Chinese, market becomes saturated and their parks become less interested in B&M. Is this what the Surf Coaster could be in preparation for? Or will it just not be a problem and they'll always have enough interest from around the world to tick on by?
 

Thekingin64

Well-Known Member
However there is something to be said for innovation and B&M have seemingly always moved at a glacial pace there. Often trying out 1 new element on a ride (the weird one and a half zero g thing on sky ripper for example). I guess the thing is that so far they haven't needed to innovate.
Bringing it back to B&M, I don't think they're stagnating per se. It's a weird one in some ways: in the 90s and early 00s, they were one of the biggest innovators around. Modern inverts with inversions, the idea of (an albeit almost) vertical drop, modern flyers. These were all new things. But they were also very obvious gaps in the market, but required top level engineering to achieve. Those innovations were essential, and inevitable. These days, there's significantly less 'types' of rides that have been tried in my opinion. So the need for that sort of innovation is much less. And their position is, whilst they can do different stuff, they offer tried and testing rides, which will give guests good experiences, and usually be reliable pieces of equipment.

So they haven't stagnated, it's just the industry has changed, and their place in the industry has changed as a result. They're a different type of manufacturer to who they were 25 years ago, and that's fine.

Exactly my thoughts on this. B&M aren't stagnating, they just take longer than most modern manufacturers to perfect their new concepts, rather than rushing them out.

For example, Intamin may have had the first wing coaster in Baco, 4 years before B&Ms version opened. However, Baco is known to be very rough and is to date, Intamin's only wing coaster. In terms of B&M's wings, Raptor has an almost completely positive reception, allowing the Wing to become one their best sellers. B&M may have been working on the concept at the same time as Intamin was working on Baco, just B&M required the extra 4 years to perfect the concept.
 

Pokemaniac

Mountain monkey
Staff member
Administrator
Moderator
Though, I do wonder what will happen when the Eastern, particularly Chinese, market becomes saturated and their parks become less interested in B&M. Is this what the Surf Coaster could be in preparation for? Or will it just not be a problem and they'll always have enough interest from around the world to tick on by?
Yeah, this is my biggest issue with them too. I dare say they're very close to reaching that situation with the European and American markets. The point where parks that can afford B&M's coasters already have everything in their catalogue, while the smaller parks can't even dream of affording one. Moving into China has let them continue under the same business model, but one day we'll be at the point where Chinese parks either can't afford new B&Ms (space/money-wise) or already have a coaster of every model they're offering, or something equivalent from somebody else.

Then again, it took three decades or so for Europe and the US to get there, and by the time they hit a rut in China, the aforementioned continents may be due to replace all their clunky old Beemers.
 

roomraider

Best Topic Starter
I'd say the Chinese Market still has at least a decade if not more until it gets anywhere near that point. There is still an almost frightning number of large population centers in China without a huge park

Just as an example these are 3 big big cities that don't have a big park so far. There's over 100 cities with more than 1million people as well.
Dongguan 7.4m
Changchun 4.4m
Fuzhou 3.7m

The main issue I think is the chinese model of building parks and then not expanding them. HV and Chimelong being the exception here but if parks aren't expanding you are dependent on new ground up parks. Off the top of my head I can only think of two B&M in China built in an existing park and that was the dive machine at Happy Valley Chengdu and the hyper at HV Beijing.

I fully expect the bubble to burst one day but not just yet. And who knows by then India and Indonesia may have reached the big park tipping point by then.
 

Crazycoaster

Active Member
Thanks all for the responses, a lot of good points. I don’t really agree that they offer variations in track type - changing spine thickness feels pretty standard practice depending on exerted forces/train weight, in the same way that Intamin and Gerst vary between dual-, tri-, and quad-track on the same coaster. I’ve never really understood why the two inverted family coasters were built, surely they were much more expensive than the Vekoma/Intamin equivalents without really offering anything else. The only change B&M made for the coasters was reducing the train size, and presumably the track thickness as a result.

Again back to my point earlier, spine thickness isn’t the only difference, there are a number of different gauges of track too. Dive coaster have a much wider gauge, and I believe the family invert has a much smaller gauge to the regular 4 across. I don’t see why they’d need to change this up, their track design is something they have perfected. Intamin keep changing up their track design because they have not perfected theirs, simple as.

B&M isn’t stagnating, they have been almost consistently busy as shown in Pokes graph, with 2017 being the only exception. It seems the most that B&M is willing to commit to is 7 coasters a year. Look at just how incredibly popular their wing coaster has become, Intamin could only hope to have that sort of success with one type of model, they only sold one true wing coaster. I think that is partly why they need to keep striving to keep up and come up with new things.
 

CrashCoaster

Well-Known Member
Kind of off topic but I just thought I'd say Nemesis Inferno is running amazingly well nowadays, much better than when I rode it a couple of years ago. Some may say even better than OG Nemesis.

I really do hope we see more B&M inverts popping up in Europe and North America, besides the one at Gröna Lund. I definitely like them more now than I used to.
 

Nick13

New Member
A big part of B&M’s ‘stagnation’ in the Western market has got to be the loss of Six Flags as a customer for them. Just had a look on rcdb and they built 25 coasters across their parks, all between 1992-2006 other than X-Flight in 2012. If SF hadn’t had their bankruptcy and change in strategy since, perhaps we would have seen a few more dive machines, wing coasters and hypers/gigas (wishful thinking?!) from them in the past ten years or so across America.
 

JoshC.

Active Member
Also, forgot to add another musing to my post: there will no doubt come a time when Energylandia look at the B&M catalogue and go 'Yes'.

That'll keep em going for a couple of years.
 
Last edited:
Top