Paramount, Games Media Unite for Virtual Thrills

LOS ANGELES Games Media Properties and Paramount Parks said this week they would jointly launch a campaign to promote their spring and summer entertainment effort, the Gamefest Tour.

New York-based Games Media produces interactive gaming events featuring products designed for personal computer and console play. Gamefest marks the first time the company has partnered with a theme park, a representative said.

Paramount Parks, a Viacom-owned company headquartered in Charlotte, N.C., operates seven North American amusement properties. Five of them—Great America (Santa Clarita, Calif.), Kings Dominion (Doswell, Va.), Kings Island (Cincinnati), Carowinds (Charlotte) and Canada’s Wonderland near Toronto, Ontario—will host Gamefest villages this summer. The attraction will rotate through each park in three-week intervals, May 26 through Sept. 8.

“Video games aren’t well represented in theme parks,” said Brett Petit, senior vice president of marketing for Paramount Parks. “But [they’re] an important and powerful force.”

The all-ages gaming areas will have a slick, clubby atmosphere, with flashing lights, upbeat music, plasma screens and frequent giveaways. Access to all games and competitions will be available at no extra charge to everyone holding a park ticket, Petit said.

Marketing efforts, handled in-house, comprise print, online and in-park work beginning 30 days prior to the attraction’s arrival in each city, a representative said. On-site strategies include ride-line TV monitor spots, posters and entry-plaza fliers

Budget specifics were not disclosed, but promotions will be “heavy,” Petit said. Per Nielsen Monitor-Plus, Paramount Parks’ ad spend has remained steady in the recent past. In 2003, total ad expenditures were $9.2 million; the parks spent a similar amount in 2004.

Much of the ad spend will be directed toward radio, Petit added. He called the medium a “hugely effective vehicle,” particularly stations targeting teenagers and young adults who feel as if they’ve outgrown traditional rides and attractions, and “usually wouldn’t go to the park.”

Forty-second Paramount branding spots will be tagged with 20-second Gamefest add-ons, and stations will run contests, ticket giveaways and remote broadcasts beginning 10 days before the attraction debuts.

In addition, Games Media is teaming with corporate sponsors aiming to reach young adults via the attraction. A roster has not yet been released, but previous partners include Nestle and Blockbuster.

Among the dozens of game offerings are “all the best new and upcoming games,” said Matt Ringel, president and chief executive officer of Games Media Properties. “And half [of them] are beta, you can’t get them on the market.”

Other highlights include “sports and racing titles, family titles and movie tie-ins,” as well as “some old-school games, like Ms. Pacman,” he said.

Due to the “sheer amount of traffic that comes through Paramount Parks,” Ringel said, the Gamefest Tour will provide “a real value” for consumers and gaming companies alike.

According to industry trade publication Amusement Business, owned by Adweek parent VNU, 2004 attendance at the five designated Paramount properties ranked between 18 and 28 among the nation’s top-50 theme parks. Kings Island’s attendance was highest, with more than 3.5 million visitors; Canada’s Wonderland came in second with 3.4 million.