The game equipped riders infrared rifles with which they could aim at several bullseye targets placed on roofs around the ICON park complex. But the visuals of people aiming guns from the 400-foot observation wheel at real-world targets below unnerved many readers around the nation, still reeling from the latest wave of mass shooting events.
ICON Park said that it will work with its vendors to redesign the guns to appear less realistic in the hopes of bringing back an interactive element to The Wheel at some point in the future.
"We believe that a device can and should be designed which does not offend anyone in the community. We look forward to leading this new innovation," the park said in a statement released to the press today. "During the design process we will pause the current version of the game. Just like all electronic games are improved over time, we will pursue a new design that will deliver the same level of customized fun for guests, in a way that the entire community can embrace."
Many interactive shooter attractions at theme parks across the country and around the world have chosen to use non-gun-themed devices for guests to take aim at targets, as they work to make their attractions feel more like fantasies and not simulations of real-life shooting rampages. Knott's Berry Tales Return to the Fair uses "jelly blasters," shaped like jelly jars. Holiday World's Gobbler Getaway uses "turkey callers" that look most like garage door remote controls. PortAventura's Sesame Street: Street Adventure also uses clicker-like controls. And the latest trend in the industry is to do away with gun-like control units altogether, allowing guests to use hand motions to hit targets, as on Legoland's Ninjago The Ride and Disney's new WEB Slingers, A Spider-Man Adventure, which is opening this month at Walt Disney Studios Park in Paris after debuting last summer at Disney California Adventure.
Ultimately, attractions such as ICON Park are in the business of selling tickets and making money. And if an element of an attraction's design is turning off or away more people than it is drawing in, it's just smart business to ditch that element - especially when equally functional alternatives abound.
If ICON Park had designed it Bullseye Blast with, say, a science fiction theme - placing alien spaceship targets on roofs and equipping riders with fantastic-looking "laser" blasters, I doubt that nearly as many people would have complained. And the five-buck upcharge game might have attracted many more customers, since it would offer a more imaginative experience. Or maybe the park could have leaned into fantasy, equipping riders with wands that aim at magical-themed targets below.
Whether anyone - or you, or your neighbor - believes that ICON Park should have continued offering a gun-themed shooter game is irrelevant. As a business, ICON Park has to follow - or better, lead - the market. While the park said that the upcharge game satisfied its current customers, ICON Park needs to be growing its market by appealing to tourists and locals who have not considered this collection of International Drive attractions in the past. So taking away any moral arguments - from whatever perspective - dumping Bullseye Blast and looking for an alternative was the right thing to do.
* * *
For more theme park news, please sign up for Theme Park Insider's weekly newsletter.