Coming soon to Batuu is a new opportunity to take up a career in (pretend) mercenary work through the upgraded version of Disney Parks’ MagicBand. And it’s about time, as the roll out on immersive experiences at Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge has definitely hit a number of delays along with shifts to premium experiences like Galactic Starcruiser.
io9 was recently invited to a media conference at Walt Disney World’s Contemporary Resort for a presentation as part of the ongoing events for the park’s 50th anniversary. We were able to preview the new MagicBand at work with Galaxy’s Edge Imagineer Asa Kalama. Check out our video walk-through of how to play with the environments through the next-generation MagicBand+, which retains its functionality but will allow users to play in real-world applications with Star Wars: Batuu Bounty Hunters.
A convenient tool most commonly used at Disney World, the original MagicBand is a colorful wristband that’s connected to your tickets and other vital information. It allows you to scan into parks, open your hotel room, and easily pay for things (dangerous). Over my visits I’ve found that the MagicBand is useful when you tend to forget things like room keys or would rather not waste your phone battery to scan tickets on the My Disney Experience App. The latter often requires the screen intensity to go up and your phone charge to go down—which is why I’ve become selective about which Disney Park app functions I use. Previously, the Datapad games in Batuu quickly landed on my “not worth wasting my phone battery charge” list, versus things like pass scanning (particularly on the West Coast, where you can’t get a printed pass), mobile food orders, and camera use. MagicBands at the East Coast parks have always been a solid form for ease of access—and with the upcoming upgrade to MagicBand+, now offer a new way to play in Galaxy’s Edge, among other areas.
As soon as you enter an area like Batuu, the MagicBand+ will indicate through color-changing lights, haptic buzzing, and movement recognition that you’ve entered an area of immersive interaction. In Galaxy’s Edge you will be able to walk up to an area of engagement with a Bounty Hunters’ Guild member to be designated a bounty to track down within the Black Spire Outpost. “Ultimately your band is going to lead you one of the many doors located throughout the land,” Kalama explained. “Once you arrive, it’s going to give you a notification that it’s time to take out your thermal scanner on the your datapad via the Play Disney Parks app.” This is how you verify that you’ve found the correct location.
The game operates mostly through a hot and cold system of clues: green-lit happy buzzes on your MagicBand+ mean you’re getting closer, while red means maybe turn back. After using the MagicBand+ as a tracker that leads you to where your bounty is hiding, the Datapad thermal scanner on the Play Disney Parks app is the tool to trap it—you spot the creature via the augmented reality viewer on your phone. Your mission isn’t complete, however, until you have another interaction with the Bounty Hunters’ Guild member. “The most important thing to do in any bounty hunting experience is to make sure you’re actually paid for your work,” said Kalama.
Having an actual cast member to interact with—in character for alternate-reality game (ARG) activities in Batuu’s Black Spire Outpust—is what we’ve been waiting for. Hopefully, the light, immersive story fun will hold as it’s been hit or miss since the area opened. Mostly I’m relieved that I won’t have to keep my face on my phone for the whole experience and will actually be able to interact with the environment and props throughout the land. The opportunity to capture your bounty and go back to the local guildmaster to collect your credits for completing your mission could be better engagement than the auto responses from the characters on the Datapad—which is still a main tool for credits. Kalama added, “You can earn credits on the Millenium Falcon: Smugglers Run or in the Star Wars Datapad. The credits you earn here are all a part of the same account so you’ll be able to see all of those in one place.”
Batuu Bounty Hunters will be available first at Galaxy’s Edge in Disney World’s Hollywood Studios Park. “We’ve announced that this will be coming to Walt Disney World later this year,” Kalama shared when asked if the experience was going to be available at both resorts. “We haven’t yet made announcements about Disneyland as of yet.” So for now, you’ll need to visit Walt Disney World to try out MagicBand+ experiences like Batuu Bounty Hunter, as well as expansion missions if you’re on the Galactic Starcruiser. Additionally, guests can experience nighttime spectaculars in a new way as they see their bands light up along with shows like “Harmonious” at Epcot and “Disney Enchantment” at the Magic Kingdom Park. There’s even surprising activations at the gold character statues throughout all four parks that you can scavenger hunt.
MagicBand+ is debuting this summer. Disney Resort hotel guests and Walt Disney World Annual Passholders will be able to purchase it at a discounted, pre-arrival price. Past-generation MagicBands will still retain their basic functionality and recent styles will remain on sale. MagicBand+ will be available at the Disneyland Resort later this year, and it’s been confirmed that some of the features (though we don’t know which yet) will differ between resorts.
Want more io9 news? Check out when to expect the latest Marvel and Star Wars releases, what’s next for the DC Universe on film and TV, and everything you need to know about House of the Dragon and Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power.