Theme Park of the Day: Knott's Berry Farm

Disney to Offer Pay-to-Play Upcharge for Spider-Man Ride

May 19, 2021, 2:26 PM · The Disneyland Resort today introduced new merchandise items for its upcoming Avengers Campus land at Disney California Adventure. But the big news here is a souvenir that fans can buy to help boost their scores in the Marvel land's new interactive Spider-Man ride.

Essentially, it's a pay-to-play upgraded ride experience - something that Disney has not offered before on a major ride. Disney has offered paid attraction upgrade options before in the form of special reserved seating areas for shows - usually as part of dining packages - but that's different from something that changes the attraction experience, as these items promise to do.

In Avengers Campus, Disney will be selling "WEB Power Bands," a wrist-mounted device that "features an attraction mode that unlocks multi-fire webs aboard WEB SLINGERS: A Spider-Man Adventure to personalize the game play for a cool, new experience on the attraction."

With the multi-fire webs, riders would be able to hit multiple targets at once, presumably increasing their score on the ride. The backstory here is that you are visiting the headquarters of the Worldwide Engineering Brigade [WEB] and learning about its new tech, which includes Spider-Bots that you will need to use your new-found web-slinging powers to capture when a demonstration goes terribly wrong. Disney's attraction will use motion-detection technology to animate riders' wrist-flicking web slinging on the 3D dark ride.

The add-on power bands will not be necessary to sling webs on the ride. They will just allow you to hit more targets at once.

But wait, as they say on the TV commercials, that's not all. Eager fans can upgrade their upgrade by adding an Electro-Dynamic Shooter or Repulsor Cannon to their WEB Power Band. Those items will change riders' shots to Spider-Man- or Ghost Spider-inspired "electro-dynamic webs" or to Iron Man's repulsor blasts on the ride. Disney says that these devices can work outside the attraction, too, projecting lights, sounds, and air blasts at home.

@themeparkinsider

New ##Disneyland merch for its ##spiderman ride. ##marvelstudios

? original sound - themeparkinsider

One wonders if Peter Parker learned anything about the wisdom of selling next-generation weapons tech from his run-in with Adrian Toomes (a.k.a. Vulture) in Spider-Man: Homecoming. But hey, it'll all work out okay this time, right?

While the interactive upgrades are a first for Disney, they are not a new concept within the industry. Rival Universal has offered interactive upgrades at its theme parks before, mostly recently with the Power-Up Band that work inside Super Nintendo World at Universal Studios Japan. Universal's Power-Up Band allows visitors to track their scores on the land's Mario Kart ride while also collecting virtual coins from interactive elements throughout the land.

Universal got its start on this with the interactive wands that debuted with The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Diagon Alley in 2014 and then were added to the company's other Wizarding World lands in Orlando, Hollywood, and Japan. But the wands were not to be used on rides - just to activate interactive window displays within the lands.

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Replies (24)

May 19, 2021 at 2:41 PM

EVIL - Letting people pay to "cheat" on the ride. I don't mind Disney selling souvenirs that integrate with ride systems or thematic elements within the park, but to give those who pony up an advantage on an attraction where competition and gaining skill through experience is part of the appeal, is pretty low.

I'm very disappointed to hear about Disney stooping to this level to sell toys. The next thing you know, Disney will start putting coin slots/swipe card/Magic Band readers on TSM and Buzz Lightyear to turn on the guns (or buy more ammo) on those rides or to gain advantages on MF:SR. Better yet, why don't they just turn every ride into pay-per-play like at an arcade or Dave and Busters.

May 19, 2021 at 2:50 PM

I knew this Kinect game would play better with Wii-motes!

Personally, I’m fine with this. Not only will this enhance the ride but I feel like this system is a step closer for reintroducing an annual pass program due to this is the kind of thing for repeat guests.

May 19, 2021 at 3:23 PM

But AgustinMacias this is not an "enhancement" per se for the attraction. While it sounds like users will get slightly different animation when using the devices on the ride, the ride will still be pretty much the same with the wristbands giving you extra shots or better aim while playing (particularly important for this ride system, if it's like Ninjago, which takes some getting used to), making these devices almost necessary to earn high scores on the attraction and bragging rights over your friends/family. Plus, if only one member of your party has a device, it kind of takes the competitive aspect and fun out of the ride unless you're willing to pay for one of these for each of the people in your party/family ($$$$$).

If you're someone like me who is ultra-competitive on these types of attractions (I've never ridden one of these types of rides that I didn't enjoy), all the skill and experience you gain from re-riding the attraction won't top someone who's got one of these gizmos. That doesn't bring repeat guests, it just forces people to pay to get their face on the high score board. This is a HUGE turnoff for me. Sure, there are "secrets" to earning high scores on most shooting gallery attractions like this (I'm a master at MIB), but this is the first time a theme park has attempted to profit from guests wanting to boost their score on an attraction.

May 19, 2021 at 3:26 PM

It's like purchasing power-ups for a video game (which I have done). Lots of guests will opt for this. Clever business move.

May 19, 2021 at 3:35 PM

Not cool. A cheatstick for the rich kids. Disappointing both Disney and Nintendo announce a cheatstick on the same day.

May 19, 2021 at 3:36 PM

Brilliant!

May 19, 2021 at 3:36 PM

Remember folks Disney is a business! I don't like it either and I won't purchase it but it's going to make Disney some money and some people will get a souvenir/experience that will be worth whatever they paid for it. When riding these types of rides I usually compete with my family. If one of them has this thing its a win win for me. If I beat them it's a "haha you still suck with your little cheating device" and if they beat me it's "well you need to cheat to beat me" type of deal.

May 19, 2021 at 3:41 PM

It's too bulky for me. If it was smaller and more elegant I might consider, as long as it's not in the price point of Lightsabers. I'm sure it will tick off a lot of parents that don't want/cant buy one and their little kids wont stop begging.

@Russel, (I'm a master at MIB), any pro tips, i'll be there in a couple weeks and want to break 600k?
Thanks!

May 19, 2021 at 4:15 PM

@MrTorrance - Exhaust port (50k per hit) - the sensor is actually easier to hit from the side, the gun that the octopus over the corner deli is holding (100k per hit), and obviously "The Big Red Button" (100k). I can pretty regularly hit 999,999 once I'm warmed up.

May 19, 2021 at 5:30 PM

I don't think the Avengers would approve of cheating.

May 19, 2021 at 6:27 PM

If Disney's Spider-Man ride is fun without the upcharge upgrades, then I am fine with this. But if they only way to have a competitive fun time on the ride is by buying this merch, then that's going to bite Disney with bad reviews from a lot of fans.

I do wish that Disney would create other venues for using this tech in addition to the ride. Part of the brilliance of Universal's interactive tech is that you didn't have to wait in a queue to use it on the rides. You can use the wands and Power Up Bands throughout their land, which helps better distribute visitors throughout those lands, as well.

May 19, 2021 at 8:12 PM

Thanks Russell,

Knew of those, just bad aim I guess, especially the exhaust port.
Also waste time trying for Frank the pug and Spielberg.

May 19, 2021 at 9:01 PM

I look forward to when Disneyland is $1000 a day and we can finally toss the pleebs out of there altogether. Filthy animals with your regular web-shooter--mine shoots all the targets simultaneously and guarantees me the high score of the day every time I ride.

After this we're having a $12,000 fruit cocktail on the lawn of Autopia, where we're close enough to spit on every commoner as they drive by. Just as Walt would have wanted.

May 20, 2021 at 12:37 AM

As David Koeing nice observed "everyone knows Disney is a business. They just hate it when it acts that way."

May 20, 2021 at 12:46 AM

Apparently Disney didn't get the memo that Electronic Arts has consistently been voted one of the most hated companies in America for a decade.

May 20, 2021 at 8:31 AM

@the_man: LOL! EA was my first thought when I was reading this!

@Russell: "Freemium" games have become the norm in the mobile gaming industry and in some console and computer games (like Fortnite). These are games that can be downloaded for free, but to be able to do well, extra money must be spent for upgrades. There are a lot of gamers out there who have no problem with this, and it was only a matter of time before a theme park tried this. If it is successful, expect to see more of it.

I have seen several articles about this, but no mention of the cost of these upgrades. Anyone have any ideas?

May 20, 2021 at 9:27 AM

@TwoBits - I'm well aware of "Freemium" games (my son is a massive fan of Fortnite), and their vast popularity and moneymaking capability. However, we're talking about a theme park attraction here, not a video game - no matter much that attraction looks and feels like a video game. Certainly theme parks have tons of untapped revenue generating potential within their gates, but that doesn't mean they should exploit them. Parks could charge an upcharge to sit in the best sets on rides...

Want to sit in one of the pilot's positions on the Falcon? Tap your MagicBand with the ride grouper to pay $5 for the privilege.

Do you hate sitting in the back row on Spiderman? Slip a $1 to the ride attendant as you board to be shifted to the front row.

Do you want your child to be selected to participate in a stage show or get a special interaction with a parade performer? Use the upgrade feature in the park's app to discretely pay for the upgrade.

I get paying extra to avoid general lines, crowds, and to otherwise receive a VIP experience, but this notion of adding "micro-transactions" to make the general experience marginally better is repugnant. On attractions that have noticeably different experiences based on seating location, guests should simply wait (or choose not to wait) for those preferred locations or just accept the seat randomly assigned by the grouper/attendant. If you want to do better on a shooting gallery-style ride or take advantage of "secrets" on an attraction (like RRR's hidden musical database), do a little research online or talk with someone on the ride that is clearly doing things different than everyone else.

Parks opening up ride secrets and exploits to guests who are willing to pay takes away the magic of discovery, experience, and hard work. Yes, video game companies have been taking advantage of customer impatience and desire to pay for an infinitesimal edge for the past decade, but theme parks are different. Guests are paying over $100 a day to visit most destination parks, and while most expect to spend more money over the course of their visit, nickel and diming guests to incrementally improve attractions goes too far.

As Robert noted, if these toys interacted with park features outside of the ride and did not provide any advantage on the attraction (just changed the way you experience the ride), I think it's fine, and is more like the WWoHP wands and the Nintendo World wrist bands. However, when they're letting guests pay to quantifiably improve their ride experience compared to the person sitting next to them (and selling these upgrades as such), that just rubs me the wrong way. I know theme parks exist to make money, and managers should always be looking for better and more efficient ways to generate revenue, but to profit from unleveling the playing field on a competition-based attraction like this is exploitative and just plain wrong.

May 21, 2021 at 8:32 AM

@Russell: Totally agree with you. Around my house, we refer to those micro-transaction games as "Free to play, but pay to win" games. But if they did not make companies money, they would not exist.

Do you not think that these upcharges aren't going to occur in the near future? Do you think the guests on the Galactic Cruiser aren't going to get preferential treatment at Galaxy's Edge? Of course they are! They are going to be guaranteed a RotR boarding group and their choice of seats on MF:SR! They will get tables at Oga's and choice of time at Savi's Workshop.

May 21, 2021 at 8:55 AM

Russell said this is "evil"?? Oh, brother. That's outright silly. This is an inter-active ride, and anybody can play. Who cares if someone who bought the souvenir gets a better score than you do? The guy in the next vehicle beat my score, so that ruins my day? Most people won't care, and if you do, just buy the souvenir. People pony up for souvenirs anyway.

The only time I dislike upcharge experiences is when they really impinge on the guest experience of regular paying visitors. I don't think that is the case here. On Toy Story Mania, I'm at a "disadvantage" in terms of the score compared to locals who visit the parks all the time, since they get more practice. So it's "evil" that they get to be better than me in the game?

May 21, 2021 at 9:44 AM

@Still a fan - You absolutely can score higher on games like this through practice and researching secrets, giving a distinct advantage to APs and locals that can ride dozens of times a year versus a tourist that maybe gets a handful of rides over a week-long vacation (though I can pretty regularly max out on Buzz Lightyear and MIB even though I only ride them a few dozen times every 3-4 years - I haven't mastered TSMM yet). However, much of the appeal of attractions like this are the thrill of competition and thirst of guests' to do better than their friends/family and placing on the leaderboard, along with improving their score on repeated attempts. If you can't even sniff the leaderboard or have a chance of beating a friend that has one of these devices, it takes that competitive element out of the attraction.

In the world of video games, some developers do generate revenue from "cheats" and add-ons that give players advantages within the game (like Call of Duty and Apex Legends). However, not all games do this, including one of the most popular on the planet, Fortnite. In Fortnite, all of the extra add-ons within the game merely change the way characters look and move within the game. Players paying extra for skins, pick-axes, back-blings and emotes have ZERO advantage over a player using free ("default") avatars.

There's no way to know yet how much of an advantage these devices will give guests (it could be minimal to non-existent for all we know), but part of the appeal of an attraction like this is to compete against others to place on a leaderboard. If the attraction and scoring are set up in a way that guests cannot possibly compete or achieve high scores without this add-on, it's just not fair. If the devices just make the game "cooler" and allow for a different way to experience the attraction, I'd be fine with that, but it definitely sounds like guests that purchase these add-ons will have a leg up and always be able to score higher than a guest that can't afford these.

Disney and many other destination parks have been very careful to be discrete when giving guests paid advantages within their parks. VIPs enter attractions through back doors, and parks that use paid FOTL services usually create 2 different queues that are visually separated so it's not as obvious to guests the difference between the "haves" and the "have nots". If guests paying for the upcharge have a distinct advantage on the attraction, that tiering will be on full display on the leaderboard and photos of guests with their scores at the ride exit. You will clearly see guests with their cheat-toys with higher scores than their "cheap" counterparts to encourage more guests to buy the toys to increase their score.

Imagine riding MIB where you had to pay extra for your Noisy Cricket, and if you didn't, you just rode through the attraction and got the chance to hit the "Big Red Button" at the end. While that's not a true comparable to what Disney is doing here, W.E.B. Slingers is setting a dangerous precedent that could lead to a situation where guests can ride an attraction, but if you want to unlock interactive elements within it, you have to pay extra. That's just not cool in my book in a theme park where the appearance of every guest being treated equally the second they walk through the gates should be maintained.

May 21, 2021 at 11:11 AM

Totally un-interesting to me personally. I'm not a gamer to start with.
If I want action in my life (regularly...), I go for sports. (Running)
Machine re-ennacted action, for me, is excessive mind-boring.
Cheers
(Loose from my own interest in (not) gaming, I aggree with @Russel on the essence & general matter of "...taking away the magic of discovery, experience, and hard work" )

May 21, 2021 at 11:32 AM

Again, most people will shrug it off. And if it means that much to you, just buy the gadget -- how many people do an entire trip without buying some kind of souvenir anyway?

In Diagon Alley, some people can afford to buy the wands, and some people can't, or choose not to. The ones who buy the wand have an enhanced experience. Did I get all resentful about them? No, I watched them do the tricks and still had a great time.

It's true that, before the pandemic, the whole upcharge experience thing was getting a little out of control. But it helps to subsidize all the park enhancements, new rides, park upkeep, etc. They're only going to build billion dollar lands if it's financially feasible.

You make some good points, and the situation is not ideal. I was mostly reacting to your preposterous claim that this is "evil."

It's also possible that only a small minority will buy the upcharge item and most casual fans won't even know about it. Will it become like the "glow with the show" hats? One problem is that this may be too bulky and impractical to load in a suitcase, so that only some locals will buy it (at some point, presumably, tourists will once again be going to DLR).

May 21, 2021 at 1:27 PM

But that's the thing, you can watch people play with the wands and trigger all of the interactive effects. You can still enjoy those without actually buying the wand. In fact, we visited the WWoHP a half dozen times before we actually bought a wand (and wouldn't buy one for our son until one chose him at Olivander's). Yes, having a wand makes it more fun, but it doesn't prevent wandless guests from seeing and enjoying those interactive experiences. You can even ask a team member to trigger effects for you to show you how the wands work.

These devices on W.E.B. Slingers are only experienced by and benefit the person wearing them, and more than likely will detract from the experience of others because they'll be taking out targets faster than guests who don't have them can. Again, it's not completely clear how much an advantage these devices will have, but it definitely sounds like Disney is selling them as a pretty distinct improvement on the standard experience.

Disney is certainly allowed to do what they want with their rides and attractions to maximize revenue, but I think this concept is taking us down a slippery slope. Now parks with similar shooting gallery attractions (think Six Flags with their Justice League rides) will be looking into ways to profit off the competitive aspects of these attraction. I'm absolutely opposed to this, because it basically turns these attractions, which I LOVE, into pay-to-play arcades. Guests should not have to buy a gadget to fully experience a ride that is part of admission. Maybe you forgot the days when parks tried to sell "3-D glasses" for indoor rides/attractions that used special paint and effects that created depth when combined with the cheap paper glasses.

This concept of paying to "plus" or enhance an attraction isn't new, but had pretty much died out over the past decade. Now Disney is bringing it back, and if they find success and generate big revenue, you better believe they (and other parks) will be looking into monetizing attractions.

Not only will parks find ways to charge guests for an enhanced ride experience, but they'll also lower the experience for guests that want to pay extra so they can create a better experience for those willing to pay.

I'm sorry if you are cool with parks further tiering guests, but further stratifying guests by how much they're willing to pay just goes against everything I love about theme parks. Guests should absolutely be able to pay for preferred access, better food, cooler souvenirs, and shorter waits, but once you're on a ride, everyone should be treated the same. Theme parks are not a carnival where you can slip the attendant an extra $5 for a longer ride or to turn up the speed a couple of notches. Theme park attractions should be accessible to everyone who can pay to walk into the gates, and those rides should give a consistent experience regardless of how much you could pay to make it better.

May 21, 2021 at 1:08 PM

Like I said, you have a point, but I'm quite sure the ride and interactivity will be a lot of fun either way.

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