Hunt Star Wars characters in new game

John Boyega (with Daisy Ridley and droid BB-8) in Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
John Boyega (with Daisy Ridley and droid BB-8) in Star Wars: The Force Awakens.PHOTO: WALT DISNEY

Find The Force smartphone app will let participants hunt down the characters in participating stores

LOS ANGELES • If it can work for Pokemon, then why not for the world of Obi-Wan?

An augmented-reality (AR) experience via a real-world physical hunt is being rolled out next month by another global entertainment franchise, with the next Star Wars film, The Last Jedi, on the near horizon.

Last summer, the AR scavenger hunt from Pikachu's universe exploded, spurring a US$7.5-billion (S$10.2-billion) market-value surge for Japanese maker Nintendo.

In a story then, The Washington Post asked: "Now, what's to keep the Comcasts and Apples and Amazons and Disneys of the world from making our naturally 3D world the exciting new area of augmented exploration on a scale as massive as Pokemon Go?"

The answer from Disney, one year later, is that the Mouse House is tapping the AR force to power its massive promotional stunt of a free "treasure hunt", it said on Thursday.

As the first wave of The Last Jedi merchandise lands on Friday (also known as Force Friday II), the Find The Force AR game - involving about 20,000 stores in 30 countries - will let participants hunt down 15 Star Wars characters, two are which are new.

To play, fans have to download the Star Wars smartphone app, head to one of a fleet of participating stores and uncover potentially talking virtual characters by pointing the phone at the Find The Force placard.

The app encourages social-media sharing of their character experiences, with the big carrot being a sweepstakes contest that closes on Sept 3. "We are excited that augmented reality will allow fans to experience the universe in a whole new way," Ms Kathleen Kennedy, president of Disney-owned Lucasfilm, said in a statement on Thursday.

The original Star Wars, of course, birthed the entire modern era of movie tie-in merchandise four decades ago, so it is only apt that this franchise is aiming to push the AR promotional game to a new level.

Plus, after The Force Awakens' (2015) merchandising success of adorable new droid BB-8, Disney is now poised to capitalise on the introduction of new furry Last Jedi characters called Porgs - wet-eyed space puffins from Planet Ahch-To that appear designed to be an ideal Christmas stocking stuffer.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi opens on Dec 15 and some stores will participate in the game till then.

WASHINGTON POST

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 26, 2017, with the headline 'Hunt Star Wars characters in new game'. Print Edition | Subscribe