What do video games have in common with aquatics? A lot more than you might think, given some of the latest developments in the industry. You could call it techno-tainment.
Experts say they’re seeing increasing interest in interactive attractions that incorporate the use of technologies, including video, infrared and the Internet. The idea is to create a more video game-like experience. A number of operators have developed new partnerships that will bring them directly in line with popular video game systems.
“As technology continues to evolve, it finds a place in the leisure industry,” said Dennis Speigel, president of International Theme Park Services Inc.in Cincinnati. “There’s no question about that.”
As examples of the trend, Speigel points to the live-action, interactive video game systems MagiQuest, available at numerous Great Wolf Lodgewaterpark resorts, and AquaQuest, designed to be incorporated directly into a waterpark.
AquaQuest combines water effects, wireless technology and waterproof infrared AquaGloves, said Carin Brown president of Aqua Kingdoms, LLC, the Madison-based creator of AquaQuest.
Pirate’s Plunder, an AquaQuest prototype, was introduced this year at the Schlitterbahn Waterparkresort in New Braunfels, Texas.
“Throughout our industry’s history, many parks have strived to incorporate the ‘latest and greatest’ innovations in an effort to entertain park guests,” said Jeffery Siebert, Schlitterbahn’s director of corporate communications and sales. “I’m sure this is a trend that will continue as more and more exciting technologies become available.”
Some operators are moving to attract today’s video-game generation by establishing new partnerships directly with video game companies and media producers.
Last year,Six Flagssigned a deal with Nintendo of America that solidified a marketing agreement allowing Nintendo to showcase one of its new games — Wario Land: Shake It — for the Wii console directly at Six Flags parks. And earlier this year, game producer Ubisoft released its Six Flags Fun Park game, also for the Nintendo Wii. Similarly, Great Wolf Resorts partnered with National Geographic Entertainment, which will sponsor video content for kids at all Great Wolf properties nationwide.
“The potential for the trend is tremendous,” said David J. Sangree, president of Cleveland-based Hotel & Leisure Advisors. “It gives patrons a reason to come back by making it a little more exciting.”
He added that this draw can drive increased admission prices. In some cases, operators also can charge additional fees for specific attractions. For example, at Schlitterbahn, Pirate’s Plunder is an additional $5 per person, and MagiQuest requires the purchase of a game wand.
Sangree noted another reason manufacturers and operators would be wise to embrace the idea of techno-tainment: Raised with cell phones, digital cable and WiFi, today’s kids expect a multisensory environment.
But he was quick to add that one hurdle for aquatics is the logistical challenge of incorporating technological hardware into a water environment.