On July 4, Six Flags Great Adventure opened its latest and greatest attraction, Zumanjaro: Drop of Doom. It’s the tallest, fastest drop in the world, save for jumping out of a plane. And an excellent piece published over at USA Today points out that, not only may we be reaching the limitations of what the human body can endure for a thrill, but that the bigger, badder, faster strategy hasn’t been paying off for Six Flags, which has been pretty consistently falling short of projected earnings.
From the article:
Bret Ulozas, the New Jersey regional representative for American Coaster Enthusiasts in Grand Prairie, Texas, said once you begin to exceed 4 G’s of gravitational force, you start to see a safety concern. At this point you can “gray out,” almost like falling asleep.
Record-breaking rides face some financial drawbacks, too.
“Over the years, everybody tried to outdo each other because for marketing purposes it’s the best thing to say you have the biggest, tallest or fastest. However, they painted themselves into a corner because as you get higher, it gets more expensive,” Ulozas said. Six Flags does not release how much it spends on building rides.
Of course, roller coasters aren’t the only industry in which the fastest, most expensive products don’t win out. Look at the design challenges behind crafting a car or building a hit computer. The world’s most profitable car company, Toyota, doesn’t build the fastest vehicle just as the world’s most profitable computer company, Apple, doesn’t build the fastest laptop. Both companies have realized that there are countless aspects of the product experience beyond raw horsepower that can delight customers.
Even though theme parks and thrill rides get to invest big money to build their product as a single spectacle rather than a mass produced device, it doesn’t mean the limitations endemic to bigger-faster don’t apply.
USA Today implies that theme parks may turn to invest more in cool experiences than in shock value–what we’ve seen in the expanding Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios and Disney’s meticulously designed and managed wonderlands.
May I be so bold as to suggest a “ride” of my own that could be built for just a few bucks? You stand in line for two hours. When you reach the end, you’re prompted to touch your pocket, and you realize your iPhone has been stolen. Your heart races. You panic. And then Mickey Mouse hands it back to you and you realize, yes, you survived. Everything’s going to be alright.