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Fall 2009 On a Quest for Traffic

Lee Little says the neat thing about Ranger Quest—a handheld game to be used at the malls—is that in addition to being fun, it has a great, hidden advantage for retailers: it helps drive traffic. This, says Little, the CEO of Austin, TX-based BarZ Adventures, the creators of the game, is especially important at a time when retail tenants are expecting more promotion and support from their retail property owners and management.

The essential premise here is pretty straightforward:

Shoppers rent a handheld game from a central mall unit. They walk around the mall playing the game by solving clues. Clues lead shoppers to various retail units around the mall. At the end, the shopper returns the unit and gets a score that can be compared against others.

Play details

The handheld devices are rented at a mall unit—rental fees range between $9.95 to $14.95 per unit. When the game starts up, a video introduces the player(s) to a “Spy in the Mall” storyline, including the characters and the mission that they are working to solve. Clues, puzzles and Flash-based games lead the player around the mall and through the game action. Little points out that players must find answers to the riddles, try to solve the puzzles to gain points and work towards mission completion. The game will give the players choices (“Would you like to search the Food Court for the mystery informant or the North Mall Wing for other suspicious activity?”), which affect the outcome of their adventure.

As the mission comes to completion, the player’s Ranger Quest game will include a finale with one of several sample endings. Common among these would be “You solved the Mission! Congratulations!” or “Better luck next time agent—it appears that the Spy has escaped your grasp.”

Retailers win

Retail stores (including carts and kiosks) can be a part of the game that is customized for each mall. Whether retailers have to pay to be put on the route depends entirely on the leasing managers, Little says. “Some leasing managers may want to offer game inclusion to their tenant stores free of charge [as a complimentary benefit], others may choose to charge a fee.”

Specific storyline tweaks can be made for each mall to create a unique experience. Traffic to stores can be measured. “Our system generates a ‘Breadcrumbing Report’ [think Hansel & Gretel creating a path] and the game plays are recorded and reported to assist with venue management,” Little says.

Concerns that the game would be a distraction from shopping have been successfully addressed in the game design. “The time element has been removed from the game which encourages players to take their time and explore as opposed to rushing around,” Little says. What’s more, pop-up coupons for each store can be programmed in (by Ranger Quest’s back-end computer system) and this further encourages shopping, Little points out.

While marketing managers and guest service managers at malls are the prime candidates for purchasing and implementing a Ranger Quest experience, the game could also be run by a third-party retailer at the mall, Little says.

Return gamers

Security systems in place ensure that units are returned safely. “Our system supports the use of a webcam to take a picture of the user’s license or credit card. A credit card bar scanner can also be used to collect credit card information automatically associated with that rental,” Little points out.

Multiple adventures are available for rent so that return gamers will have new and exciting quests every time. Additionally, the “choose-your-own-adventure” style of game play allows players to make choices on what to do and how to advance in their mission, and multiple endings allow additional variation. “These elements combine to form different experiences for players,” Little says.

The targeted demographic for an interactive Spy in the Mall virtual video game is people aged 12-35. Since several people can share the unit simultaneously, it makes a unique “date” or couple’s outing, Little says.

At a time when competition for the consumer dollar is fierce, every little bit that the malls can do to make their locations a more attractive place to shop, is worth taking a look, Little says.

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Poornima Apte

Poornima Apte is a Boston-area freelance writer and editor specializing in retail and the book publishing industry. Learn more at

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