Entertainment

Build a virtual Magic Kingdom, but beware app’s hook

The Magic Kingdoms app allows users to build a Disney-esque theme park with attractions from around the world and populate it with characters.
The Magic Kingdoms app allows users to build a Disney-esque theme park with attractions from around the world and populate it with characters. TNS

Every day, several times a day, Joe Machado tells Mickey Mouse where to go.

It’s part of the game play in the new Magic Kingdoms app, which allows competitors to build a Disney-esque theme park with attractions from around the world and populate it with characters, from Goofy to a “Toy Story” Green Army Man to Maximus, the “Tangled” horse.

These elements are earned by sending characters, starting with Mickey, on tasks throughout a digital park that looks familiar, beginning with Main Street U.S.A.

“I go to the parks all the time,” said Machado, a Walt Disney World annual passholder and former cast member. “I do think it’s kind of cool to see how they’ve taken the park experience and put it in a mobile app for people who might not be able to go to the parks every weekend like myself.”

The app debuted in mid-March. It’s part of a mobile-gaming industry that took in $29 billion in 2015 and could grow to $49 billion in 2018, according to some estimates.

Machado, who lives in Clermont, Fla., likes the building aspect of the game and collecting characters, which gives him a sense of accomplishment, he said.

“I’ve gotten all the ‘Toy Story’ characters except for Zurg and Rex right now, and I’ve just started to unlock Mike from ‘Monsters, Inc.,’ ” said Machado, 23. “And I just got Space Mountain. I was really happy with myself when I unlocked Space Mountain.”

The game falls into the “free-to-play” category. There is no charge to download it, but there are options to spend money, such as buying more characters or acquiring shortcuts. Adding the Pluto character would cost $7, although it can be picked up other ways that are free.

Pluto “is one of the premium characters in the game. … We’ve had very good feedback on him,” said Bryan Cook, a game manager at France-based Gameloft, the game’s producer. “He’s engaging. His animations are very cool.” He not only interacts with Mickey Mouse in a fun way – they play catch near the castle – but his presence helps streamline some game play.

Gameloft isn’t aiming for kids in a stroller – but they might be pushing one around the parks.

“The target audience is between the ages of 20 and 40,” said Veronica Cole, a product manager with Gameloft. “It’s actually targeted to 70 percent female and 30 percent male within that 20-to-40 age range.”

Disney has been involved in many video games on several platforms.

“This is the only game that I can think of that actually allows you to make a Disney theme park,” said Glendon Dphrepaulezz, lead producer for Disney Interactive. “We’ve had games in the past … where you were allowed to walk through them. This is the first time you’ve been allowed to make one.”

Gameloft doesn’t reveal sales figures. Users have been sending suggestions to Gameloft for additional characters and attractions, and there will be regular updates to the game.

“There’s an overarching story that continues, that will only continue to grow and be added to as the game gets more updates and more content in the future,” Cole said. “For fans who are playing the game … they can be playing for months and, hopefully, for years to come.”

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