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Dollywood mobile game promotion offers instant rewards

June 23, 2014

0620FireChaserExpress_optA mobile promotion for the Dollywood theme park’s newest ride holds promise for effectively connecting the digital and physical worlds by offering real-time benefits for skilled gamers.

Customers who play FireChaser Express – The Game while waiting in line at the theme park’s new FireChaser Express roller coaster can win free passes to the express lane for the ride. The player with the highest score each hour between 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. gets two free passes to the faster queue.

“This particular promotion sounds like it gives an incentive, where if you get the top score, you can get the benefit almost immediately,” said Simon Buckingham, founder and chief executive officer of New York-based Mobile Streams. “It bridges the physical and the digital.”

Mobile Streams markets games and apps in Latin America through its Appitalism store. It is not involved in the Dollywood promotion, but Mr. Buckingham agreed to comment based on his expertise in gaming and mobile marketing.

The promotion also opens up possibilities for cross-promotion within the park using billboards and other media, he said.

The new ride
Dollywood is billing FireChaser Express as the nation’s first “dual-launch” family roller coaster. The ride travels forwards along a 2,427-foot track, then stops for a fireworks display before launching backwards along the track.

In FireChaser Express – The Game, players navigate the FireChaser Express track past obstacles in a 3-D landscape. At the end, they race to put out a five-alarm fire at Crazy Charlie’s Gas & Fireworks Emporium.

0620FireChaserExpress_opt-2In its promotion of the game Dollywood is encouraging families to download the app ahead of time to practice before coming to the theme park. Users can download the game free from iTunes or the Google Play store.

The game is the second such launch for Dollywood, the 150-acre theme park owned by singer Dolly Parton’s Dollywood Co. Last summer the Pigeon Forge, TN, venue launched RiverRush – The Game to promote that ride through Dollywood’s Mobile Adventures.

A spokesman for Dollywood was not immediately available for comment.

Games as promotion
Mr. Buckingham said the use of games as mobile marketing vehicles is especially appropriate in this Dollywood promotion because of the similarity between the ride and the game. The game could serve to build both excitement and awareness for the latest Dollywood attraction.

The challenges for such a promotion, however, are that people often have very high standards for the quality and functionality of the games they play on their mobile devices. Also, competition for game dowloads is intense.

“How do they get visibility for that title among the tens of thousands of games that are out there?” Mr. Buckham said. “The qualities need to be particularly advanced.”

While the tie-in to immediate rewards is a positive aspect of this campaign, Mr. Buckingham cautioned that using mobile games as promotions can backfire.

If the goal of such a campaign is simply to build awareness of the brand, then marketers might be better off using more traditional advertising.

“If the games fail to meet the high standards that people have, it could have the opposite of the intended effect and actually turn people away,” Mr. Buckingham said.

Final Take

Mark Hamstra is content director at Mobile Commerce Daily, New York

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