In a market full of family entertainment centres (FECs), one Dubai-based shopping mall developer has taken the bold step of developing a new attraction format. Owen Ralph explores the interactive world of Fun City 2.0
Young guests are promised an exciting experience at Interactive FC 2.0. This prototype FEC concept opened over the summer on the third floor of the Landmark Group’s flagship Oasis Centre in Dubai and serves as the launch pad for several all-new interactive game-based attractions.
The eight rides and games were delivered as a “Ready Zone” package from 3DBA/Westech and developed by up-and-coming European suppliers Alterface and Skytrack. Supporting media content and storylines were provided by Falcon’s Treehouse in Orlando.
“Together with our partners, we are always trying to develop innovative new concepts,” explains 3DBA’s Roger Houben. “Landmark have been very supportive and we now plan to develop a full range of interactive attractions that we believe will be well suited to other malls in the Middle East.”
Boasting parks and FECs in Qatar, Oman, China, India, Egypt and throughout the United Arab Emirates, Fun City forms part of the Landmark Group portfolio, and many of its outlets can be found inside the company’s shopping malls.
Located alongside Dubai’s Sheikh Zayed Road, the Oasis Centre operates in a fiercely competitive environment, and here Landmark had to consider carefully what would make a commercially viable FEC proposition.
“Just down the road towards Jebel Ali is the very successful Mall of the Emirates and on the other side of the Oasis Centre is another destination featuring two large entertainment concepts,” explains Fun City group general manager Sanjay Chakraborty. “We had to ask what could we do that would be different and be a driver itself, instead of relying solely on the footfall generated by the mall?”
Two things forced the group to look beyond the standard FEC set-up with rides and attractions. First, there wasn’t enough room. This particular Fun City had to be accommodated within retail store height. Then came the acknowledgement it would not necessarily be going head to head with other FECs.
“We believe that a FEC should be for the resident community and its offering should ensure the population keeps coming back,” says Chakraborty. “We consider our real competition to be outdoor playfields and indoor computer games and therefore wanted to provide a product that combines physical elements with virtual game play.” Welcome to Interactive FC 2.0.
“Alterface was already doing some interesting work in this field,” notes Chakraborty. “After searching for different options and development partners, we found that 3DBA and Westech shared our vision and were willing to take it forward. The Air Racer was something we’d wanted in our centres for sometime, marrying it with some media content made it a great proposition for us.”
Developed by Skytrack in the Netherlands, Air Racer is the first ride of its kind and uses the same air-cushion technology as the company’s eagerly-awaited human pinball attraction. Air Racer features a four-lane drag racing strip and four 1-seater cars (alternative configurations are available). Before they board the hovering ride vehicles, passengers must be weighed so that the air pressure underneath the car can be adjusted to ensure a fair race.
An animated character then explains the rules on a giant screen in front of the riders. The challenge is simple: once the lights turn green, passengers must press a button to launch the car down the strip. The rider with the quickest reaction wins and their photograph is displayed on the screen together with their score, much to their family and friends’ amusement. Each ride cycle consists of three races.
The Interactive Game Battle, also known as SWAT, is a walk-through game in which players attempt to rid a spacecraft of alien forces using laser guns. To prepare for combat they must don a vest equipped with wireless shooting technology. The attraction features four rooms including a briefing area and the action takes place on screens in each subsequent room. This refreshing take on the laser tag concept lasts just over four minutes, with one 60-second film per room.
A virtual race through a besieged city awaits players on Jet Blaster. Sat inside futuristic-looking jet racing vehicles, passengers peer inside a 3D 180-degree landscape and prepare for action. This immersive virtual world is enhanced by the moving vehicles, which turn from side to side during the game.
The Battle of the Parallel Planes is fun both to ride and watch. The attraction features four disc-shaped ride vehicles that climb up a central tower as the game progresses, according to a player’s score. Each vehicle is equipped with 3D window technology and pitch and roll capabilities to heighten the experience. The player that reaches the top of the tower first is the winner.
Also included as part of the offering at Interactive FC 2.0 are Battle Ship F1 (The Tumbler), which features a 12-seater capsule that rotates during the game, Galactic Maze (themed mirror maze/fun house), Race to Escape (4D simulator) and the Time Machine, a space-age version of Alterface’s interactive theatre featuring the games Desperados and Pirate’s Plunder.
“The games we have developed are designed to be an extension of the arcade experience,” says Houben. “What standard video games do not offer is this level of interaction or ride experience. Many of our new products will also feature film-based intellectual properties.”
Each of the attractions can easily be adapted to dispense redemption tickets or points. Operators can also increase per cap spending by offering player photos on attractions such as Air Racer and the interactive theatre.
To encourage families to try out the games and attractions when Interactive FC 2.0 opened, visitors were offered any three for AED30 ($8.15/€5.70). Their high repeatability and competitive game play element also make a loyalty card an interesting proposition, but first guests must become familiar with the games themselves.
“The concept as well as the games are all new,” notes Chakraborty. “These are not the standard rides or attractions normally seen in this region. It is therefore imperative that we educate the customer about this completely new concept in indoor entertainment. We are waiting for the end of Ramadan to start pushing the concept more aggressively, including to school groups.”
Clearly Fun City has embarked on a learning curve with this new interactive offering, but its managing director confirms it will feature at future entertainment outlets developed by the Landmark Group.
“Immersive, interactive play is going to be the future and we will be at the forefront of developing and designing such centres,” declares Chakraborty. “This format can be rolled out to any metropolis where outdoor spaces are limited and there is a large young population.”