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Alton Towers

Alton Towers turns to AR gamification to promote The Smiler rollercoaster

By Stephen Lepitak, -



alton towers article

February 26, 2013 | 4 min read

The world can be a scary place – but it seems so can the augmented reality world now too as Alton Towers releases the first 3D experiential rollercoaster.

The Idea behind the Brief

The aptly named rollercoaster ‘The Smiler’, an £18 million ride that has a maximum speed of 85km/h, peaks at 30 meters off the ground and lasts for just under three minutes, is set to open in May 2013.But that’s not all that’s terrifying about the ride – it is set to be promoted through gamification with an AR game that will be made available across iOS and Android devices and will feature a full 3D recreation of the ride itself. The game, which was developed by mobile creative agency Matmi following a commission from ad agency TBWA/Manchester, will allow players to take control of the rollercoaster cars as they attempt to keep them in line, and will be able to upgrade their rollercoaster as they gain points to spend. To ensure that players are driven to the final purpose, in order to complete the game they must set foot in Alton Towers Resort’s X-Sector and use the Smiler Scanner on images to unlock the next updgrade. The final upgrade comes having taken a ride on The Smiler itself however.

The use of augmented reality and GPS within the game

The most interesting feature of the game, built using Unity3D, is its use of AR technology, which can unlock hidden content through the scanner and offer access to secret upgrades, as well as extra videos and images from images placed around the park. “Creating a game was simple enough but we wanted to incorporate the experience of the rollercoaster and within that allow users earn credits to mould their own rollercoaster to a certain level. There are extra points that you need to create the ultimate rollercoaster though and insert GPS for other areas of the park as well,” explained Matmi managing director Jeff Coughlin. He continued: “We realised that we could augment the game for people in the queue and we added images that would help them bring it to live, so it could become a sort of treasure hunt. It could have been a video or a 3D overlay and we’ve made it like a game in itself. It’s a physical thing to do as well while waiting at the park, where you could end up with the ultimate rollercoaster, which is the one you’re waiting in line for.”GPS location features are included within the game, allowing it to be incentivised with related images being placed at different places around the theme park, driving people towards The Smiler.

What could this extension of AR mean?

Coughlin discusses the possibilities that the use of AR and GPS location software involved in the development of this game could have in other sectors: “You could do it around supermarkets with food packets or in a library with book covers – trying to find them. There’s so much more we can do with the augmented driver. It could be used by museums to have visitors achieve things by looking at different bits of art and sculptures and offering little questions on those – it could make school trips a hell of a lot more interesting. Not only that – people who have questions during audio journeys – you can turn that on its head by allowing them to delve into it. Here we can bridge the world between digital and physical like in no other way.”In anticipation of the launch, a teaser campaign has run, steered by TBWA/Manchester, with images of the Smiler’s brightly coloured logo appearing on popular landmarks around London to raise interest.
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