Legoland Adding AR Games To Boost Visitors
To attract more Legoland guests, the theme park owner Merlin Entertainments is betting on augmented reality (AR) games to lure them in with games themed around TV shows such as Paw Patrol and Squid Game.
As part of a multimillion-dollar licensing deal, AR company Immersive Gamebox will run the interactive games rooms, which will be launched in two of Merlin’s locations, including one in Germany and one in Australia by 2024, with the rooms potentially being rolled out more extensively to more of the operator’s 140 sites globally.
The eight game rooms per location will each hold up to six users who will wear visors with motion-tracking sensors to select from an extensive collection of games with touch screens, projection mapping, and surround sound.
The first two locations are under the umbrella of Merlin’s Midway Attractions business, which manages the waxwork museum Madame Tussauds.
“This is a pathway to remove the headphones in the dark room talking to friends playing games, and going out and being active and being socially connected,” said Scott O’Neil, Merlin’s chief executive.
O’Neil hinted that visitors should expect to “see a lot more of these” in Merlin locations in the future.
Merlin reported $259 million in pre-tax profits in 2022 and has continuously profited from partnerships that have boosted revenue, such as its first standalone Peppa Pig theme park, which opened last year, and rides like the World of Jumanji.
According to Will Dean, Immersive’s founder, their IP partnerships with big players like Sony, Netflix, and Paramount have been a nice addition to the business and will be “highly complementary” to Merlin’s goals. He added, “the ambition is to grow to a couple hundred sites together over the next few years”.
Immersive has been forecasted to reach projected revenues of about $47 million and plans to develop around 200 locations globally by the start of 2024.
Dean says that Immersive has already served about 1 million users, and that number is growing.
Countering Dean’s claims, George Jijiashvili, an analyst at technology consultancy Omdia, said he was “sceptical” about what is being touted as a “huge untapped market in AR gaming”.
He says that instead of the AR games being “truly groundbreaking stuff”, Immersive is only “an evolution of existing arcade games”.
According to Dean, the difference with the game rooms is that users and their friends can now play together at any one of the park locations, which is a novelty because Immersive games require that players work together instead of working against each other.
“The biggest problem with VR is that you’re not really with your friends.”
Of the Merlin partnership, Dean hinted that somewhere down the line, the AR company could be purchased by Merlin because it is “looking to roll up a whole set of businesses.”
“Maybe one day they turn around and say to us: ‘We’re better at selling drinks and T-shirts than you are . . . you should become part of the Merlin family.”