Play Disney Parks App: Gaming the Lines Away at WDW & Disneyland

Play Disney Parks is a new app for passing time while waiting in line for popular attractions at Walt Disney World and Disneyland. It’s now available for iOS and Android devices, and offers in-queue games, trivia challenges, free current and extinct attraction music, and achievements to unlock while exploring the parks.

In this post, we’ll review the Play Disney Parks app and offer our thoughts about what it could represent for the future of the theme park experience. We were going to include a ‘how to use’ guide for the Play Disney Parks app, but it’s pretty intuitive, and there’s no way my “old dude” explanation could beat asking the nearest child (preferably your own) for a quick tutorial.

When we tested Play Disney Parks, there were four different games themed to individual ride queues that unlocked when we entered (or were really close to) the queues. Peter Pan’s Flight, Toy Story Midway Mania, and Space Mountain can be played at both Disneyland Resort and Walt Disney World, with the Slinky Dog Dash game being exclusive to Walt Disney World.

We’ve had the chance to use the Play Disney Parks app, which debuted during our last trip to Walt Disney World. To be honest, I’m not sure either of us are the right people to be reviewing the Play Disney Parks app. Although we enjoy video games, neither of us have ever gotten into any mobile or social media games.

With that said, we tried a few of the Walt Disney World games, and they were pretty much exactly what we expected. Addictive, mindless games that could be real time-sucks if you got really into them. That might sound like criticism, but part of the reason we don’t play games like this in the first place is because when done well, games like this are really addictive.

These games most certainly are done well, and if your goal is to pass time while waiting in line, you’ll most certainly be satisfied with the Play Disney Parks app. There are no noticeable design flaws, no lag, or other issues that we could identify. The user interface is nice, the games are responsive, and the design of the games–and the entire app–is polished and beautiful.

While not for us, these games are objectively “good” for what they are. Personally, I would rather take the opportunity to chat and be immersed in the environment while in the queues, but I know a lot of people like to be on their phones while waiting in line. This is a good way for Disney to make that a communal activity, and displace third-party “in-line time killing” apps that have become popular. Making the attraction a “Disney” experience from start to finish is a smart move.

I also like that Play Disney Parks connects the world of the game to the physical space of the queues. This was most noticeable in Space Mountain, where symbols and other minor details have been added around the queue that you need to find to advance in the game.

While we’re on the topic, could Imagineering throw us a bone and include an in-app decoder for the Mara-glyphics found inside the Indiana Jones Adventure queue? It doesn’t need to be a game; I think it’d be fun for a new generation of fans to be able to decode the messages throughout that ride’s line.

What we did both really enjoy is the style of the Play Disney Parks app. The theme park maps in the app are like a cross between a Mary Blair ‘it’s a small world’ designs and old school “Fun Maps” that used to be sold as souvenirs. Except these are interactive, and contain some fun details to discover. The games are neat if that’s your thing, but this is my favorite feature of the app.

The music is also a nice touch, especially for those who don’t already have hundreds of hours of Disney theme park music in their iTunes library. This is another “not for us” thing (we far prefer listening to the BGM in each land), but this is a great plus for casual visitors. In my book, the more people we expose to the original “One Little Spark,” the better!

What’s also more intriguing to me than the games themselves is what the Play Disney Parks app represents for the future. It’s patently obvious that Imagineering views this app as the future of queue entertainment, as the games have already caused the removal of the queue games at Space Mountain.

This almost seems startling after so much emphasis was placed on tactile, interactive lines only a few years ago. As part of the NextGen initiative, several queues received pricey upgrades that now seem ‘obsolete’ to some degree, but I suppose technology and progress march onwards.

The good news there is that at least Walt Disney World only installed a few interactive queue games and never went all-in on the concept. That could’ve been a painful investment in hindsight; almost as bad as investing billions of dollars in RFID bracelets and readers when NFC would be ubiquitous in smart phones and other devices only a few years later.

In part, that’s my concern with Play Disney Parks, too. I think it was a savvy move to start with a limited rollout to only 4-5 queues, so testing and adjusting could occur based upon guest behavior. This slow integration also makes it fairly easy for Disney to can the project quickly if it’s not achieving the expected results or adoption rate. Sorry if that sounds unnecessarily pessimistic, but it’s not as if Disney exactly has a sterling track record when it comes to gaming and patience.

Should the Play Disney Parks app prove successful in its first year (by whatever metric the company is using to measure “success” here), an expansion to more queues is highly likely. Imagineers have also hinted at a more complex set of achievements over time, particularly for repeat visitors.

While those could just be badges in the app, they could also be “real life” rewards and incentives to keep playing. Imagine if accomplishments in the game could unlock “bonus” FastPass selections or a dining discount. The idea of “discounts” and “free FastPass” might seem outlandish given the direction Walt Disney World is heading, but we used to receive bonus FastPasses…for Carousel of Progress and PhilharMagic…back in the paper FastPass days. Likewise, coupons for dining off-hours used to be distributed during busy seasons.

Disney has ways that it could offer tangible rewards in the Play Disney Parks app that are mutually beneficial to park-goers and operations by influencing guest behavior. With attendance likely to soar post-Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, incentivizing visitors to visit certain attractions or dine at off-hours could help with crowd-flow. And of course, those are just two potential, hypothetical examples. Even if Imagineering doesn’t take the app in that direction, there are inherent benefits in encouraging engagement and rewarding repeat visitors.

Ultimately, it’ll be interesting to see where Imagineering takes the Play Disney Parks app. I don’t really care about the substance of the games, as I doubt those will ever be my cup of tea, but in terms of how this evolves the theme park experience. Although I far prefer the dimensional world to anything screen-based, I have to admit that shifting technology from physical screens in the lines to a phone app that can be regularly updated is a smart move. It’ll also be fascinating to see how popular Play Disney Parks is with other guests, and whether Imagineering expands the purview of the app to ‘real life’ aspects of the theme parks.

Planning a Walt Disney World trip? Learn about hotels on our Walt Disney World Hotels Reviews page. For where to eat, read our Walt Disney World Restaurant Reviews. To save money on tickets or determine which type to buy, read our Tips for Saving Money on Walt Disney World Tickets post. Our What to Pack for Disney Trips post takes a unique look at clever items to take. For what to do and when to do it, our Walt Disney World Ride Guides will help. For comprehensive advice, the best place to start is our Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide for everything you need to know!

Your Thoughts

Have you used the Play Disney Parks app? What did you think of the games? Do you agree or disagree with our review, or thoughts on this app being the future of in-queue entertainment? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback–even when you disagree with us–is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!

16 Responses to “Play Disney Parks App: Gaming the Lines Away at WDW & Disneyland”
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