Why video games are the future of theme parks

Let me go back on a recent article published in Fortune and entitled “Why Nintendo and other game companies are teaming up with theme parks”. This follows this year’s third announcement of a video game company’s foray in the theme park industry.

The article lists a number of reasons for such partnerships:

  • The desire/need for video game companies to expand their successful franchises beyond games and into other forms of entertainment
  • The need for more interactivity (or intra-activity as EA puts it) in theme parks, which video game companies have learnt how to master
  • The similarity between theme park and video game designs aiming at “creating an experience that takes people out of their day-to-day lives”

This last point deserves more development. Being involved in the concept development of Ubisoft’s first theme park in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia I realize that during our workshops Ubisoft teams keep pushing the envelope. Every bit of the park has to fit in the bigger picture, the visitor journey is carefully planned with rewards, modifiers, fillers and other ‘gaming’ tricks making it more ‘intra-active’. Designing a theme park together with a video game company seems such a natural evolution for our industry.

This leads me to a comparison with Disney and Universal Studios and their first theme parks. Back then cartoons and films were the most popular forms of entertainment and it was only logical that they gave their followers a ‘real life’ experience in a theme park, whilst expanding the footprint of their IP’s. Well today video games are the most popular form of entertainment (In China, video games are the highest grossing entertainment industry at US$14.5billion in 2014) and it’s about time that a video game company brings us the next generation of theme parks.

Disney invented the meticulously themed journey (e.g. It’s a small world) and Universal Studios invented the highly immersive dark ride (e.g. Transformers). What will video game companies invent? Is VR the answer? I personally think it’s more than that; it is probably the gamification of the whole experience, where “every guest is a player, every ride is a playground, every visit is a game” as Jean de Rivières from Ubisoft puts it.

Jean De Rivieres (Ubisoft) talking about the next generation theme park at blooloopLIVE Asia

Jean De Rivieres (Ubisoft) talking about the next generation theme park at blooloopLIVE Asia

Stay tuned for more updates as we keep developing the Ubisoft theme park concept. You can also read my interview of Jean de Rivières for blooloop here.