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Three Trends – Looking Forward

Hixee

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Three Trends – Looking Forward

Almost as a partner article to the Three Trends – Looking Back article I posted a few days ago, this time I’m going to look forwards.

Thinking about the new trends we’ve seen in the past few years and which of those I’d like to see continue or grow, and which I’d like to see fall by the wayside.

As with the other article, this is clearly going to be somewhat of an opinion piece, but I’ll try to be reasonably objective. That said, my last attempt at being “reasonably objective” wasn’t particularly, so… no promises.

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Three trends we hope DON’T catch on
In no particular order

Not finishing the theming for opening day

Sources: @Hixee

Man, this one really grinds my gears.

Starting with the counter – I do totally understand why parks are starting to do this. You can break up your investment over a couple of seasons, focus your teams on one aspect of a project at once, and in theory deliver an overall better solution that you might have been able to if you’d tried to do everything in one go.

Then again…

Doesn’t it half ruin the opening day/season experience of the new ride?

I generally try to look at coasters as a whole package – ride hardware, theming, aesthetics, etc. By not bothering to complete the coaster, you knock out a good chunk of ‘positive feelings’ towards a coaster. Taron is a decent piece of hardware, but the reason (for me) why it’s so good is all of the theming that supports it. On flat ground, it definitely wouldn’t be in my Top 5 (or maybe even Top 10) – put it that way.

Now, we (generally) have a slightly different perspective as enthusiasts than non-enthusiasts. We will travel far and wide to ride coasters, but often aren’t revisiting parks for several years in between trips. They’re two of my photos above – I last visited Hansa Park in 2015 when Karnan opened and I haven’t been back since. My memory of the coaster is of a half finished one. Same with Tripsdrill – I’m not likely to be going back there for many years so always have the memory of a concrete station with no roof. Of course, we’re not really the target market, and it’s those people who are within a few hours of these parks that probably do take the one-or-two-trips-per-year that get the local TV adverts and targeted social media campaigns and who might be jazzed up to ride the coasters again with the finished theming.

Sure, you can do some additional marketing in the future, but by the time the second season comes around don’t you think the novelty has already worn off somewhat?

So yes, I do understand why it’s done, but I wish it wasn’t and I hope it doesn’t become an ever-increasing trend among mid-size parks. They’re building genuinely good pieces of ride hardware, I just wish they’d open them with all the detail and fanfare they deserve.

Why does every element need a silly name?

Source: @Hixee

This is one that I will admit feels a bit loose – but it’s something that does bug me and something that I have noticed seeming to happen a bit more over the last few years.

There seems to be a growing trend among new coasters to need to have everything get a ‘unique’ name. Some of these I’ll sort of understand, but others feel awfully forced. The “non-inverting-cobra-roll” on Kondaa is a great example – surely we have some sort of cut-off where it’s no longer some combination or modification of an existing element, or even can be considered “one element” anymore?

It seems to me like this comes from two places – it’s either over zealous marketing or over enthusiastic fanboys.

I’ll forgive some of it if it’s marketing. The park wants to make a snazzy looking ride and promote it well, and the manufacturers sure seem to be able to think up some nice silly names for elements that sound impressive. Okay, fine. Problem is when that somehow migrates into everyday coaster terminology. My example here would be “step-up under flip” found on a handful of coasters (although based on RCDB’s list, I’d wager Ride to Happiness is miscategorised here – that looks an awful lot more like a “flying snake dive” {which, tangentially, is a ridiculous name in and of itself}). I’ll admit to only having ridden the one on Untamed, but isn’t it just… a zero-g roll? I mean, okay it has slightly different elevations on the entrance and exit, and sort of starts a corner, but then doesn’t that make the zero-g roll on Wildfire one too? Feels like stretching the definition of a new element a bit, to me.

The other side of things is the enthusiastic fanboys – and Iron Gwazi’s “death roll” (which thankfully seems to have died a death) is an example of this. It’s a barrel roll – get a grip.

Of course, that’s not to say that I want to reclassify everything as either lift, launch, hill, loop, corner or brakes. I’d just like to rein in the over the top naming of things.

And yes, I said this one was loose, and I can hear the replies now – what about the era of Dive Loop/Immelmann Loop/Butterfly/Bowtie/Cobra Roll/Sea Serpent/etc? You’d be right – that was some crazy bull****. At least they’re nice compact names to say, though. ;)

SBF Visa Spinning Coasters

Source: @ECG

So I’m not so sure these are quite as new (or rare) as I thought they were – RCDB says 110 installed and the first having been in 2014!

Now, here’s the debate – if we’re going to see crappy kiddie creds installed isn’t it better that it’s not a Big Apple, Wacky Worm or Go Gator?

Probably.

But god SBF Visa Spinning Coasters are bleak.

I bet they’re cheap, but urgh.

I hope someone can come up with something a bit more inspiring that can become the go-to cheap kiddie crap.

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Three trends we hope DO catch on
In no particular order

Virtual Queuing

Source: Sewden HK, Blooloop

Disney (and I’m sure others, but I’ve only experienced it personally as Shanghai Disneyland prior to last year) used to be some of the only parks where this sort of thing existed, but with Covid making a right mess of things it’s become a truly worldwide approach.

Covid has caused parks to rethink their queue lines. Rather than shove 1000 people into a cattle pen, you get them to hit a button on an app and put them in a virtual cattle pen. Then you just walk in when it’s your time to ride, and come into contact with as few people as possible.

Thinking into the future, when Covid is part of our collective suppressed traumatic memory, I think we’ll see lots of parks continue to operate virtual queuing. From our perspective we can go ride another ride, or get a coffee/beer/lunch, take some photos, go to the loo while we’re in the virtual queue – it all means more rides! Of course, from the park’s perspective, we spend more money (we’re busy buying beer when we would normally be standing in line), and you don’t have to build queues as long and winding!

Of course, the drawbacks are that you’d have to plan your park a little differently if your queues aren’t full. There’s a few thousand people who you’d normally account for “in the queue” who are now filling up your midways and cafes, but that wouldn’t be so bad of a thing really.

It’s also very easy to implement fastrack tickets – you just add some multiplier to the virtual queue time. No separate entrance, queue, merge-point, member of staff to monitor it, etc. All a lot simpler.

Drawback though, and it’s a biggie, is that if you do buy a fastpass you don’t get the satisfaction of swanning past all the normal punters in the queue and feeling like royalty.

So yes, I think on balance I’d rather have them stick around. I’ve found it makes the day generally better, and I’m curious how it will play out in 5-10 years’ time when parks can operate back at their maximum capacity.

Seasonal Events

Sources: @Hixee

I’m going to talk in generality here, and do some very broad brush sweeping statements that don’t hold up under specific scrutiny. Please don’t post below with five counter examples – I know I’m not going to be right in every case. :p

The UK has always felt a little behind the rest of the world (more specifically a decade+ behind the USA and probably half that to Europe) in terms of big Halloween events. Sure there have been “fight night” type events with a few mazes, etc, but in the last few years this market has boomed. Now, if your park doesn’t do a Halloween event, you’re the odd-one-out.

Obviously, this has loads of great benefits – it keeps the parks open later in the season, night rides!, fab Halloween events with mazes and scare zones, night rides!, often good food options provided that are unique to the time of year, oh and did I mention night rides?!

But, and this is where I think there’s something rather exciting growing among parks, is lots more annual events. Thorpe and Alton successfully ran their first Oktoberfest events, which I expect to become bigger and better in the future. We’re seeing parks regularly running food festival type events (Busch Gardens recently did a great one), and I think there are likely to be more and more of these.

Then of course there’s the winter events, singling out Phantasialand’s raved about “Wintertraum” and Efteling’s creatively named “Winter Efteling” which make for cold winter riding but lots of hot chocolate and mulled wine! Although this is most weather dependent of the seasonal events.

It’s a smart move from the parks – you give people more reasons to keep coming back. From our perspective – it gives us lot of new things to try out! Personally, I can’t wait to have more and more excuses to visit parks year-round! Those folks in Florida don’t know how lucky they’ve got it! ;)

Fab park social media channels

Sources: Twitter, YouTube

This is one that’ll keep reasonably short, but as social media has grown, we’re seeing more and more parks really start to use the platforms well. Ten years ago, social media was still finding it’s feet in many ways (and you could argue it still is), but we’re seeing parks take social media seriously and are employing people (either on purpose or otherwise) who are really knocking it out of the park.

Sometimes it’s self-referential, but the real gems are parks who engage in friendly back-and-forth with other parks.

My favourite one that always springs to mind, was when Kentucky Kingdom posted their “Hagrid queue stats here” tweet on Hagrid’s opening day. It’s a great Tweet for many reasons – it’s creative, it’s funny, it’s topical, it’s totally harmless, and best of all – Universal engaged with them! Neither park loses out from this sort of thing, and I think it’s great to see a lot of mutual respect being shown between parks from a public relations perspective.

Many of us have known, or do know, people who work at parks who are goons, and it’s great to see that side of things flourishing.

@Ian has an upcoming post about the impact of SM on the industry will explore some different aspects of this topic too!

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What do you reckon? Which things are you excited to see catch on in the next decade or more? What about things you hope die a quick and painless (or painful?) death?
 
I actually (although not completely) disagree about theming not being completed for opening. I think it's actually slightly ingenious, and if it helps spread the budget so the ride gets open AT ALL then its quite clever.

It also prolongs the buzz of a ride...and installs in visitors a wish to re-visit in following seasons to see what they've done next - and therefore makes you excited to ride again and experience something new.

Its also a clever PR ruse and feels like 'the rides not complete but we're opening it up for you anyway' especially these days when rides can open at ANY point in a season, that 'vip soft opening feel'. Karnan had that feeling - and they got to promote it in 3 consecutive years, year 1 ride hardware open.....year 2 indoor thumbing open....year 3 outdoor theming completed. As long as it's a park you trust to complete the work (such as Hansa....who DID deliver).

I do understand Why it would annoy some people - and you miss the opportunity for a grand reveal, which generally that IS the ideal!

The question is - would you prefer to ride a cred a year early? or wait an extra season or more until it's complete? I think opinions on this would vary in the red community, but image more than not would just be chomping at the bit just to try it.
 

Hixee

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The question is - would you prefer to ride a cred a year early? or wait an extra season or more until it's complete? I think opinions on this would vary in the red community, but image more than not would just be chomping at the bit just to try it.
I don't think has a single answer (from each individual). It depends on the cred.

Would I choose to ride Dragster early without the little grandstand and traffic light? Probably.
Would I choose to ride Velocicoaster early without any of the pre-show, theming and foliage? Probably not.
 
I don't think has a single answer (from each individual). It depends on the cred.

Would I choose to ride Dragster early without the little grandstand and traffic light? Probably.
Would I choose to ride Velocicoaster early without any of the pre-show, theming and foliage? Probably not.
Exactly, i think this is the point, enthusiasts would be divided! I LOVE theming and thats my bag, but I'm still not sure which I'd prefer, other enthusiasts I know don't give a jot about theming - so would be happy in any case! I actually quite like comparing a ride before/after theming too.

And therefore, there is some responsibility on part of the enthusiast/visitor, you can always choose not to visit until its complete....there's choice!
 
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Gazza

Active Member
I'm not a fan of virtual queuing (If its the only option)
The presence of a physical queue limits demand, people naturally distribute themselves onto rides with less of a queue over time.

With virtual queuing, you get an immediate pile on to the popular rides, often meaning you can miss out all together, with no recourse.

For example, with Rise of the Resistance, boarding groups would often evaporate within a couple of minutes of the park opening, with no backup option to stand in the standby queue if that ride was the only one you genuinely cared about getting on.
See also: the issues with Tapu Tapu at Volcano Bay.
Or Jungle Coaster at Legoland back in the day.
 

Hixee

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That's a fair point, that I hadn't really factored into my argument. Yeah... I see how that could be a difficult thing to manage - you do lose that self-regulation that a 3hr stand by queue forces into the park.

Maybe I was biased from a few experiences in Europe last summer (and once a few years back at Disney Shanghai) where there wasn't really an issue with that.

I wonder if there is some sort of compromise that might be found - not that I can think of one right now!
 

UP87

Member
I think you can't compare the virtual queuing right now with virtual queuing in normal situations. The parks are not running at full capacity. The number of visitors is limited in most places.
 

Hixee

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True. Although like I say, I did have a great experience with it at Disney Shanghai in 2018, so...?
 

Youngster Joey

Well-Known Member
Virtual queuing for Rise of the Resistance last February before the pandemic was great. I'd honestly be shocked if that wasn't the future of Disney's parks. Gives people more time to eat and shop in the parks as well.
 

Howie

Active Member
Not completely sold on virtual queueing systems yet. Not as standard procedure anyway. A bit too regimented and .. well, just faffy. You want a day at a theme park to flow naturally, to feel organic rather being laid out in a strict timetable. Virtual queueing is (and always should be) nothing more than a useful upgrade if the crowds are large and you're running against the clock.
Plan your trips right and you'll seldom need it anyway.
 

UP87

Member
For some parks queues are necessary to manage the crowds in the park. If Phantasialand had virtual queues the paths would just be too crowded. Someone stuck in a queue is not out on the pathways. On the other hand he won't be buying merch, food or snacks. So generally parks don't really want the visitors to be stuck in queues. It's complicated and I think you can see with the big Disney parks that it's not an easy problem to manage. Planning the schedule of your theme park visit 30 to 60 days is just not everyones thing.
 

JoshC.

Active Member
Totally agree about the weird / stupid element names.

I remember when Swarm was being built, and enthusiasts were hyped about the unique twist and drop. And then X Flight was announced to have effectively the same drop, resulting in Thorpe jokingly coining the name 'The THORPE PARK Inversion'. It didn't catch on, of course, with it instead going by the much more sensible 'dive drop'.

But not only are there stupid names (step up under flip, dog tongue, jo jo roll, for example), but more parks try to name elements after their rides - Flug Der Damonen's "demonic knot", Maxx Force's "Maxx dive loop", etc. I'm a little surprised the non-inverting cobra roll hasn't yet been renamed a Kondaa roll, for example.

It's a silly little thing, but every stupidly named elements makes my eyes roll so hard.
 
Interesting list and I certainly agree with much of that.
I can't remember element names much at all or even use them. I think "loop, barrel roll, corkscrew, inversion, cobra roll, double down, top hat" is about my entire coaster element vocabulary I've been using for over 20 years.

The unfinished theming thing is disappointing. But even more so I would have wanted Energylandia to keep Abyssus running completely hidden from POV videos until all the water was in and theming is done. Obviously I couldn't wait to see the coaster's POV on Youtube and couldn't look away but I think the whole package, like how Phantasialand tries to hide things till full completion is the absolute best way to show and experience new rides.

On the seasonal stuff:
It's good to see parks capitalise on this although I'm not so sure the scare maze attractions are necessary in a theme park. I'm a bit old too to enjoy Halloween probably, it really doesn't interest me much but seeing more parks open for winter experiences is indeed interesting. As long as the queues are shorter I guess it will be bearable on most days. I had a great time at Winter Wonderland last winter for example.
 
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MLDesigns

Member
Not completely sold on virtual queueing systems yet. Not as standard procedure anyway. A bit too regimented and .. well, just faffy. You want a day at a theme park to flow naturally, to feel organic rather being laid out in a strict timetable. Virtual queueing is (and always should be) nothing more than a useful upgrade if the crowds are large and you're running against the clock.
Plan your trips right and you'll seldom need it anyway.
Agree with this. Only real experience I have with virtual queues is Rise of the Resistance and I thought it was great. Allowed me to get a spot in that line, do everything I wanted to do in the park while waiting for my boarding time. If virtual queues become the standard and there are no traditional queues to wait in (assuming that you can only have one active queue reservation at a time), the only outcome I see is a total nightmare at the guest relations building from only being able to ride like 6 rides in a full day. I didn't really follow it all that much but I'm pretty sure Holiday World ran into this this past year. Didn't hear much good out of that system even on moderately crowded days.

I guess you could solve that by selling shorter return times as a virtual flashpass type thing? idk. Definitely don't see any way that entire virtual queues goes over well.
 
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