Pirate’s Adventure Testing at Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom

Written by Kevin Yee. Posted in Disney Parks, Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World

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Published on May 14, 2013 at 2:00 am with 17 Comments

The new interactive game “A Pirate’s Adventure–Treasures of the Seven Seas” has begun testing at the Magic Kingdom. This game is closer to Kim Possible/Agent P than Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom, since the latter relies on screens and the former uses physical effects heavily. The new Adventureland game is also rife with physical effects, and in some ways it’s very heartening to see that approach in the Magic Kingdom. I was worried that the Epcot version of interactive games was a dying breed, a single experiment in an environment sliding inexorably toward screens and digital effects, but happily, that turns out not to be the case.

There are five missions to choose from, which adds to the repeatability of the game. Each game takes about as long as a game of Agent P takes to complete in Epcot — about 10 minutes if there is no line.

Pirate’s Adventure RFID playing card.

You start at the former Crow’s Nest gift kiosk near Pecos Bill. It has been converted for this game, and there you are given your paper map and your RFID playing card, which is in the shape of a hexagon. One station in front of Tortuga Tavern serves as a kind of automated kiosk for playing additional quests.

The gameplay is essentially identical to the Agent P game in Epcot, except that you use a paper card rather than a loaned cell phone to trigger the event. That is to say, you show up at the appointed spots, wave your card to trigger the event, and watch as a physical effect unfolds in front of you. Having physical effects makes the game more cool to some users. My six-year-old declares Pirate’s Adventure to be better than Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom.

I would say it’s essentially the same thing as Agent P, but there is one critical difference. In Epcot you can sometimes hear the communicators beeping and loudly telling their stories. Since the game card and map are paper-based on Pirate’s Adventure, the only noise to come from the game is localized to the physical effects, and those tend to be both less obtrusive and somehow more interesting when you are nearby and an effect is triggered. We drew lots of interest from onlookers when we made our effects occur.

Effects might be as simple as a talking robotic parrot or a skeleton being raised out of the water. Our favorite was probably the cannon shot, which first blows a spout of water into the air but when you do it again shoots open a treasure chest. There is a coolness factor to many of these effects that was simply missing in the Epcot game.

Well my younger child prefers Pirate’s Adventure, I’m less certain the game has repeatability for older children or for adults. With the middle and hard levels of Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom, there is repeatability because the game is difficult and it requires strategy. With Pirate’s Adventure, there is no way to lose again, and so I think it could be said that this game will skew younger than Sorcerers.

It does learn some lessons from Sorcerers. Each interaction takes only a few seconds, and there’s not a long storyline the way we saw in sorcerers. I often found myself wishing for a fast-forward button with Sorcerers, but that seems unnecessary with this new game.

The game stations are highly integrated in Adventureland, and they look good. Few of them stick out at all and will not disturb the casual or infrequent visitor. Adventureland had a number of out-of-the-way places, so this game was a reasonable fit for that land. I suppose they could do something like it for Tomorrowland — which would also explain why that land is not part of Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom — but that would probably be all that is possible for the Magic Kingdom.

Some visitors lament the introduction of games to the Disney theme parks. So far, Disney is still ahead of the competition on this score, and these games are one of the things that make the Disney parks unique. They aren’t really amazing attractions that will draw a crowd in and of themselves, but as interesting diversions and part of a larger comprehensive package of attractions, they do add value.

Some question whether such games even have a role to play in the theme parks at all. Why not just spend money building good attractions to ride, they ask. It’s a good question, and one without an obvious answer. Disney is changing its use of the parks mostly because it recognizes that the audience has changed. Just watch the crowd in an average standby line, and you’ll see plenty of people on smart phones and ignoring the themed story unfolding around them in the queue. So Disney now builds interactive cues to better meet the attention demands of today’s audience. People not standing in line are sitting on benches or in restaurants… are looking at their smart phones.

Surely Disney’s logic must look something like this: if a visitor leaves the theme park and feels like they could have done the same thing all day in their own house, then they will sense they did not get their money’s worth and are less likely to return. Disney must assume it is their job to provide experiences they cannot get at home, and in a way that means combating the smart phone addiction. The official Disney parks app is meant to be a part of this answer, but its usability is so low and its scope so restricted that it presently fall short.

What do you think? Let us know in the comments what you think Disney should do about smart phones and the changing tastes of the audience. Are games like Agent P, Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom, and A Pirate’s Adventure the answer?

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Kevin Yee is the author of numerous independent Disney books, including the popular Walt Disney World Earbook series and Walt Disney World Hidden History. Readers are invited to connect with him online and face to face at the following locations:

About Kevin Yee

Kevin Yee is an author and blogger writing about travel, tourism, and theme parks in Central Florida.

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  • Trumpet

    Great Article Kevin

    Personally, I do not visit Disney theme parks to play a game. I want to experience world class attractions to feel part of another world. For me, this is money that should have been spent on a new atrracton other than the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train and AVATAR, which I think will not succeed as well as Disney hope for. Universal and Sea World this year have been increasing the amount of attractions in their parks and they look like it be a fantastic summer. However, WDW on the other hand have invested in a, in short, a video game. This looks like this a poor investment, and they need to change how they invest their money. Looking at USO recently, the Harry Potter area will have unique merchandise and WDW will have no unique items to buy. The area will be filled with different shops and unqiue attractions. This does not feel new or unique and I am disapointed.

    Thanks Again kevin

    Trumpet

  • Buffett Fan

    In all actuality, Trumpet is probably not the target audience for these games. WDW has many families, who stay for a week and park-hop, making multiple visits to each park. Sorcerers and Agent P provided my 10 year old with added value during the repeat visits. Plus, at no additional cost, the games add to the “magic” of WDW for this target audience. Happy kids equals happy parents. Happy parents are more likely to spend and return.

    • Trumpet

      True, I do not have a family, I am in Sixth Form in the UK. Still, my main argument is that they already have a interactive game with the Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom, which is in the same park as the new Pirates game. I am sure it will be popular and really fun to play with young children, but in terms of the overall attraction and the money invested, I think it was a poor move.

      One more thing; the way theme parks invest in attractions is to make people visit them during the summer. Will this ‘game’ make people travel to Florida for their summer vacation solely due to this? Or will a mega E-Ticket make more people part with their cash?

  • ttintagel

    The maps are absolutely beautiful.

  • kcnole

    I am surprised that they haven’t built some type of phone app with a scavenger hunt type game that can only be played in the parks. People are already, as you mentioned, on their phones all day long. I could easily see an app where you scan a QR code of some type and it triggers events in the game on your phone. Maybe it reveals videos about the attraction, gives out some type of small awards that can be redeemed in park, etc… The app would need to be littered with information about your attraction, scannable scavenger hunt items throughout the park, etc…

  • http://micechat.com Dusty Sage

    While the game looks well done, if the problem is a lack of things to do in the park, should resources really be spent on constructing all these cheap games, or should they be building new family friendly attractions to boost capacity in the parks? At some point the guests are going to catch on to all this filler and start feeling cheated. For goodness sake, they just built the huge new Fantasyland expansion and then forgot to fill it with attractions. Something’s just not quite right with all of these games in the park. Especially since REAL new attractions seem so few and far between these days.

    Great update Kevin.

  • PecosBill

    We played “Pirate’s Adventure” this past weekend. I do like it better than Sorcerers because of the physical elements. But it is not quite as engaging at Kim Possible/Agent P.

    Kim Possible/Agent P has more of a story line that leads you from one location/element to another. And the possible locations are concealed by the nature of the phone.

    This game lays out all the locations on the map, so you know where you are going, just not what order you are going in. This to me is a flaw. Now you are simply going from location to location so that you can see what FX’s are triggered, you quickly stop paying attention to the story, now it’s just about the effects. Once you have played all five games, I’m not sure if there is a reason to go back and do it again?

  • ahecht

    Looks like you caught the kid in the yellow shirt “digging for buried treasure” in the picture with the cannon!

  • LoveStallion

    *yawn*

  • EasyRover

    In regards to the change of culture at the parks, honestly, it is sad that people will stare at their phone instead of taking in the environment of the queue area. Space Mountain, for example. Can’t stand the video games. They totally take away from theming. When the ride first came out, I’m sure most kids were like “Windows looking out into space! Wow! Planets! Stars! Cool!” Now I feel like kids could care less. Can’t use their imagination at all. I go to the parks to get away from the world and normally leave my phone in my room. Staring at your phone while in line, you are still connected to that outside world.

  • Tielo

    I’m also amazed about the fact guests at WDW are glued to their mobiles.
    But when I’m on these kind of sites I ready many people are going to these parks every year (some of them even more often). I guess they get bored or biased of both.
    Even when I lived on Orlando we only got an annual pass for one park (group) every year and also one year without it to visit all the other stuff in and around Orlando. So we only visited Disney once every 5 years and it never got boring.
    Then again I think Disney should at least by one new attraction every year. That’s only one attraction every 4 years per park. To keep things fresh.
    For this “game”. As long as it keep guests happy and out of the rides I would like to experience, I’m ok, but I really don’t know why anyone would care for this crap as they played a fortune to get into this park.

  • JiminyCricketFan

    I don’t see the game as repeatable. Once you have done it, it is over. Now a well themed attraction ride, I can do several times. I see this as a waste of money. I don’t believe that anyone will make a special visit to Orlando to play this game. I DO see people making a special visit to Orlando to see the new Harry Potter area and experience those rides.

    Walt knew that to really make an impact, you have to “go over the top.” He made Disneyland way better than any previous amusement park. He lavished it with new attractions every year after it opened, too. So greater than anything else was not good enough. WDW is on the road to being a resort which is yesterday’s news. I see very soon that visitors to Orlando doing the opposite of what they do now. They will be staying at Universal for several days and doing a day trip to see something of WDW.

  • BrianFuchs

    Um, Kevin, not to pick nits, but that RFID playing card is pentagonal – not hexagonal.

  • RandySavage

    I’m a fan of this addition and think it’s money well-spent.

    I’ve lamented the loss of little, unadvertised, inbetween FX and features that are a key components in pushing a theme park to greatness level (e.g. the old AA animal heads in Pecos Bill; Luxo in DHS; stepping stones in DAK).

    One thing this non-toon, non-screen game (thank you, theme park gods) does, as Kevin noted, is it adds a bunch of the above-type features to the park (e.g. guests not playing the game can still see and be intrigued by the water cannon). It adds a layer of interest to the Adventureland for those playing and those not.

    Rides & environments are still the cake, but this is some very good icing. MK is on a bit of a roll in this department with the Big Thunder queue, spot the chameleon, and now this game.

  • StevenW

    I’m surprised that you say mobile home users are not glued to the theme environment and the storylines in the queue. Most queue lines are not telling us a story. They are largely boring. People standing around in switchbacks despite the theming need something to distract them. I find playing with my phone can take up 30 minutes per session. Thus, I can easily pass the time with my phone.

    As a compromise, Disney should offer up interactive games for mobile phone users. I already have the Mobile Magic app for Disney Parks. It would be nice if it offered up more features that align with the queue and can automatically call up GPS and let the user listen or read up on the storyline.

    It seems like Disney is doing this interactive gaming to keep people interested in going to the parks. Sorry, I feel that they keep missing the big picture. People go to theme parks for the rides. These are distractions. Unless they start adding more star attractions, people will not care. Frankly, I am not interested in physical games. Phone and tablet games are my preference. However, I do think Disney is missing out of merchandising by giving away the game for free. The map and cards look gorgeous. If they charge for it, people may buy it. I see the games as something to do away from the parks as to keep the Disney magic at home or at the hotel rooms while on vacation. It’s something extra for the kids to do.

    Perhaps they should integrate the map and cards with a phone or tablet app so the player can experience the magical effects away from the parks.

  • 1WaltFan

    Being a native Angelino and Disneyland regular I would love to see these on the west coast. When we were at WDW my 10 year old and her cousin spent half a day doing agent P. It was originally a way to give the kids a reason to go to World Showcase with their parents and it serves this purpose well. At the end of our trip she discovered Sourcers and lover it! I had to pull her out of MK to make the flight home. These are great mid/late day diversions when the parks are filling up and lines are getting long. Especially for regulars.