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.
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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!
People have their face on their faces enough. I enjoy talking with family or new people more than playing games while waiting.
I like reasonable wait time in lines as it is one of the few times we get to talk. (Unless we’re all hangry over heated cranky pants), then phones are better than family counseling!
But I do have one question, regarding the ability to play music with the app, are there a bunch of phones playing different songs audibly in line out loud?!
Starting this by saying that I haven’t used it in the park yet – but did load it onto my phone. I know that the trivia is probably not where they put the focus, but since they put it there, it should at least be playable. If you play more than 2 times in any given ‘land’ you get all repeat questions.
With the limited number of rides that have games, and only being in MK & HS, I don’t know why they rushed this to market. They could have certainly used the IT budget in better places to fix the continuing issues with MDE on the web-site & app.
They rushed the debut because signs for the app are posted all over Toy Story Land at HS and the app needed to have those games open the same time the land did. It’s odd to see the Soarin Challenge in the queue of that ride tell guests to play that game on the app when Epcot wasn’t open at all, even a month after the app debuted.
I want to give it a try but desperately hope that Disney improves their wifi in the parks! As an International visitor I am already dependent on Disney’s wifi for MDE and it’s sadly lacking. Drops signals constantly.
Hoping that as they introduce more and more things that require wifi that they will put money into their infrastructure to offer a more reliable service to their guests.
Wait, the game in the Space Mountain queue is gone!?! Man, that alone would have been enough of a news item to warrant a blog post in my book. I’ve “tolerated” the game since they added it because it didn’t really take away from the atmosphere (and is certainly preferable to the SMTV screens from the late 90s) but Space Mountain’s queue and background music is one of the longest lasting and most vivid memories I have of Disneyland and The Magic Kingdom, so I’m pretty excited to see it taken away.
We were there last week and I could never get it to detect that I was in line for the ride to play the game. Afterward it showed that I rode it in my achievements, but that was it. I emailed support and all they could tell me was to check my location settings, which I had done several times. Total dud for me. Very disappointed. However, after all the problems I had with the MDE app as well I wasn’t surprised! Disney IT is the WORST!
Understanding that I haven’t been to WDW, so I haven’t played the games yet. Do these games encourage interacting with your travel party? For a solo traveler, these sound great, but my family works to limit phone time on vacation to focus on family time.
Yes, there are interactive games for up to 5 people. I watched a Disney vlogger on youtube use the Peter Pan games in Disneyland, and the four of them had a blast. Little games like drawing things and the others have to guess what it is. Telling your friends 3 things you love and one you hate, and they have to figure it out, etc. It looks really fun! I agree that family time is important, but when the kids start getting grumpy and whiney waiting in a long hot queue, this is a fantastic helper!
The decoder is a great idea. Not only would it be fun for things like Indiana Jones but it would also be amazing when Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge opens up. I’m sure they are going to have signs everywhere written in Aurebesh and people are going to want to know what they say.
I’m with you guys in that I’d rather chat with my companions or enjoy the atmosphere while I’m waiting in line. Hopefully they don’t cut back on queue entertainment/theming and replace it with a fixation solely on these games. However, if they start offering additional FastPasses or dining discounts, I might change my mind : )
We used the app while we were in line for Slinky Dog Dash. We actually had Fastpasses, but we waited for 45 minutes while the ride was down. I wished that I had earbuds to listen to the playlists, but we had a great time with the games. I would like to see more “secret” clues real-life details added. Maybe a scavenger hunt with prizes (real or virtual) for checking everything off within one land or area of the park? It could be a tool for not just killing time but actually appreciating all of the fun details.
Do you think this new technology in the parks will cause some of the interactive queue elements, like the ones found at Big Thunder Mountain, to disappear from the parks over time?
I think as those effects break, there won’t be budget allocated to fix them, but I doubt those dimensional props will actively be removed. Space Mountain is a special case in that the interactive queue was solely a screen-based game, so it was redundant once Play Disney Parks launched.
This definitely sounds interesting. you could argue that they already have a smartphoen game in the line of Soarin’… if it ever was actually working and you could get wifi or a cel signal in that building.
I have mixed feelings on the interactive queues. I like Pooh’s quite a bit, and I think Peter Pan’s new queue is arguably as good as the ride.
But the queues where you have to actually stop for more than a few seconds to play a game (Space Mountain. 7DMT) don’t work well because some people become irrationally angry when a gap of more than 3 feet opens up in the line. Instead of just playing the Space Mountain game for a minute and then everyone moves up in line people will push pas or yell at you to keep moving. (And Disney conditions this behavior by constantly telling you to fill all available space in the line.) So for those cases a game like this is welcome.
I’d bet that Soarin’ is one of the next games to be incorporated into the app. Sorta surprised that wasn’t a launch day attraction, given that it can be found on both coasts and the current game isn’t always the most reliable.