Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance ride? You'd better get up early. And you'd better get lucky, too.Want to get on Disneyland's new
Disneyland is using what it is calling a virtual queue system to manage the crowd for Rise of the Resistance. Park guests must use the official Disneyland app to enter the queue, where they will be assigned a "boarding group" number that will be called via an app notification later in the day.
Guests must be inside the park to join the virtual queue, which opens at the park's published opening time. But guests are slamming the app as soon as the queue opens, resulting in all of the day's boarding groups being claimed within minutes. And it's getting worse each day. This morning, all the groups were gone for the day within just two minutes.
In practice, this isn't a virtual queue if all the day's boarding spots are going that quickly. What Disneyland has for Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance is really a lottery, instead.
Disneyland is using the same system as its sister park, Disney's Hollywood Studios at the Walt Disney World Resort, adopted soon after Rise of the Resistance opened there last month. Initially, Hollywood Studios was using a more traditional virtual queue, which guests were allowed to join as soon as they entered the park. But that was leading to people crowding the park's entry plaza in the middle of the night, as they tried to get first dibs to enter the park as soon as Disney began admitting guests.
People were forming a physical queue to enter the virtual one. Disney didn't want the hassle of maintaining that physical queue in the pre-dawn hours every morning — or to take complaints from guests who didn't want to have to get up at 2am on their vacation in order to ride the most popular new attraction at the resort. (Even as every jet-lagged British tourist chortled quietly at the advantage the early start provided them.) So Disney changed the system to open the virtual queue only at the park's published opening time.
Disney would continue to allow people to enter the park about an hour or so early, as it always does. But there would no longer be any advantage to showing up in the middle of the night. So long as you were tapped into the park by 7am, you had the same opportunity to get into the virtual queue as anyone else inside the park.
But when thousands of people are trying to enter a virtual queue at once, there's really no "first come, first served" when the difference between first and second can be measured only by microseconds. In that case, what you have is a lottery. It's just random chance where you end up in the boarding group order.
At least at Hollywood Studios at this point, everyone inside the park at its opening has been getting boarding group numbers that allow them to ride Rise of the Resistance. Even those who show up within an hour or so of the park's opening have been getting on the ride more often than not.
That is not yet the case at Disneyland. While the best estimates at this point are that the vast majority of people inside the park at opening are getting Rise of the Resistance boarding groups, it is clear that some Disneyland guests who have made the commitment to be in the park at opening are not getting an assignment. And some who do get boarding group assignments are getting "backup group" assignments that ultimately are not called before the ride closes for the evening.
Clearly, Disneyland's version of Rise of the Resistance is not yet putting through as many guests as the original installation at Walt Disney World is each day. Disney World is getting through many more boarding groups than Disneyland, where Rise has opened late its first three days and endured extended downtimes and early closures on its first two days. (We're still in day three.)
It's one thing to have a lottery to assign people boarding times during the day, but it's something else to have a lottery to determine whether park guests get on a ride at all. Last month, we asked you, What is the best way for theme parks to manage demand? In our reader vote, you collectively endorsed the virtual queue concept, with 47 percent of respondents preferring a first-come, first-served virtual queue that opens on the day of your visit.
But the option that came in dead last in our vote, with just two percent support, was an in-park lottery on the day of your visit — which, essentially, is the system Disneyland now has for Rise of the Resistance.
Sure, it's the opening weekend. Rides go down when they'e new like this. At least Disneyland isn't making people wait in a 12-hour-plus physical queue to get on Rise of the Resistance. The demand for Rise is so high that it is possible that even if Disneyland had used a traditional physical queue for the ride that some of the people who came to the park at opening would not get on the ride by the end of the day.
But it's also likely that the prospect of standing in a line for 12 hours would dissuade quite a few people who are trying their luck with the virtual queue from getting into a physical one. The discomfort of waiting in a line that long effectively would cut the demand for Rise of the Resistance, perhaps ensuring that everyone who was willing to pay that price, if you will, would get the chance to ride.
It's a nasty way to manage demand, but at least it's fair. Right now, there is no way to guarantee yourself a place to ride Rise of the Resistance at Disneyland. Sure, if you get there early and tap the app right at 8am, the odds are significantly better than 50/50 that you will be riding that day. Our best estimate is that at least 90 percent of people are getting boarding group assignments, though maybe a third or so of them are backup assignments.
But that also means that there is a smaller, but significant, chance that you will not get to ride, too. That's why, at this point, we cannot recommend booking a trip to Disneyland solely to go on Rise of the Resistance. If you must get on the ride ASAP, choose a trip to the Walt Disney World Resort instead, where arriving at Disney's Hollywood Studios first thing in the morning does appear to guarantee you a spot on the ride at some point.
Eventually, we trust that Disneyland will get Rise of the Resistance running at a higher capacity and that the park's legions of annual passholders all will have gotten aboard at some point, reducing the demand for the ride, too. That should bring Disneyland into the same groove that Hollywood Studios is operating within now, where there's essentially a lottery for the day's early boarding spots, followed by a true virtual queue to fill out the rest of the day.
But for now, in California, you show up and you take your chances. Could Disneyland have managed this differently? Sure. Disneyland could have done what it did with the entire Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge land last spring, when it assigned advanced reservations online to visit the land during its first month. That system kept anyone from making a trip to the resort in vain, as you knew in advance of your visit if you would be getting in or not.
That system also lead to an overall decline in attendance at the resort as many people chose to visit only when they had a Galaxy's Edge reservation... or not to visit if they could not get one. Disneyland isn't about to chance that happening again, so an advance reservation system for Rise of the Resistance was out of the question.
But Disneyland also isn't about to risk a virtual queue/lottery situation that causes hotel guests to cancel their reservations because there's no guarantee that they will get on Rise of the Resistance, either. If park guests keep wiping out all the boarding groups within a minute every day for next few weeks, that becomes a real risk. In that case, I would not be surprised to see Disneyland publicize that it will offer an Extra Magic Hour on the ride for hotel guests only, or guarantee them a boarding group assignment, or give them a one-time-use Fastpass for the ride.
Ultimately, I love that Disney has been trying something different with Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance. Parks should be looking to innovate and adapt as much with their operations as they have been with their ride systems, placemaking, and storytelling. But innovation does not stop with an attraction's opening. Great operations teams learn and adapt as their cast members watch how the public is using a new attraction. The Disney's Hollywood Studios team made the change they felt necessary to make its system work better for everyone.
Soon, Disneyland's management might have to do the same.Tweet
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