Disney Social Games Creates First Facebook Game With Theme Park Tie-In

Disney New Facebook Game - H 2012

Disney New Facebook Game - H 2012

Disney Animal Kingdom Explorers blends elements from the Orlando theme park into gameplay experience.

Disney Social Games, in conjunction with developer Playdom, will launch the first Facebook game with a direct tie-in to one of The Walt Disney Company’s theme parks this April. Disney Animal Kingdom Explorers was developed in conjunction with theme park scientists and zoologists to bring authentic animals, plants and birds into the virtual world. The new social game will also emphasize the importance of conservation.

The game blends two popular genres into a unique experience. There’s a hidden object game that features photorealistic art and a large assortment of animals for players to find. The game also includes a simulation mode where players can build their own nature preserve. Gameplay is divided evenly between these two genres. The experience is connected with players unlocking new animals, plants and trees for the nature reserve by unlocking them in the hidden object game.

The developer took thousands of photos in the Disney Animal Kingdom park and created themes and objects modeled from those. Two of the game’s locations will be particularly familiar to Disney fans, as Harambe and Anandapur draw inspiration directly from the Animal Kingdom theme park. While the Tree of Life from the park will be the starting point for every nature preserve, the gameplay doesn’t have players building a Disney park. Rather, they’re creating a unique preserve to house and protect hundreds of animals, plants and birds from around the globe.

The game’s eco-friendly storyline has Facebook players joining the Global Wildlife Research team and traveling the world on expeditions. The game will launch with animals and plants from six major regions like the Rocky Mountains, the Amazon Rainforest and the Australian Outback.

“Players will work with friends to collect the necessary materials to grow their habitat,” said Eric Todd, vice president of product and creative director, Animal Kingdom Explorers. “The hidden object portion of the game offers online leaderboards for players to compete and compare scores in a social setting.”

Playdom worked with Disney scientists to ensure environmentally correct gameplay. Players will be rewarded for placing giraffes with the correct trees within their preserves. There will be no popcorn or vending areas and no cages for the animals. In addition, the game will feature thousands of animal facts that are incorporated into the game.

The game will be featured in the Disney Animal Kingdom between April 13 and 14 as part of the park’s Earth Day celebration. Visitors will be able to play the online game at the park as part of a bigger integration among the Disney Nature studio team, Disney Social Games and Disney Parks.

There will also be regular cross-promotions between the virtual world and the theme park. There’s an in-game newspaper that allows the game developer to announce things relevant to the park and events as they come up, including the Earth Day celebration. Players will also be able to find links to the theme park’s Web site.

“Once they’ve been to park players recognize how things tie in from our game,” said Todd. “We’ll continue to update the game every week or two with new locations. These updates will include five or six difference hidden object gameplay scenes and new items based on that location for the nature preserve.”

Playdom’s Garden of Time, a hidden object game, was the most popular game across all of Facebook in 2011. This marks the first foray of expanding that style of gameplay into a Disney-themed experience. Disney Animal Kingdom Adventures is also the first animal-themed hidden object game, which Todd believes will appeal to many of Facebook’s 750 million users.

“Hidden object games have been popular in the traditional games space for a long time,” said Todd. “As Facebook games continue to evolve and mature, things that were popular only on consoles and portable devices before now are gaining popularity on Facebook.”