Diagon Alley’s Soft Opening Blues
UPDATE JULY 10th 2014
Escape Form Gringotts reliability
A few ongoing tech issues appear to be plaguing the Escape From Gringotts attraction inside Universal’s brand new Diagon Alley area of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
Sadly, it suffered several hours of closure on Thursday morning and with long lines and no estimated times for the attraction.
No matter what, you can’t be anything other than impressed with Diagon Alley so far.
The new Wizarding World of Harry Potter area at Universal Studios is totally immersive, full of charm and incorporates an unprecedented level of detailing thanks to JK Rowling and Universal’s lead developer; Thierry Coup.
Right now, regular guests must await July 8th, before the official opening of Diagon Alley gives them access to this fabulous new Wizarding World.
Right now though, some keen visitors are lining up to enter Diagon Alley, as privileged resort guests, probably feeling a little unhappy with Universal right now;
Like all good stories, things do occasionally ‘go bum in the night’ and a few teething troubles with super hi-tech attractions like Escape From Gringotts are to be expected during the early days of launch.
There’s not been a major ride on earth that hasn’t endured some niggling gremlins (or goblins) to challenge the patience and skills of the resort’s engineering team.
Soft openings are traditionally used to filter a few guests at a time, to allow the ride to be tested as soon as the safety thumbs up has been given.
(Read about soft openings here)
Normally, this can happen over a week or more, as the engineers fix little issues and let the attraction spin into life with real guests, real ride speeds and loads to test real life ride scenarios.
Soft openings are an essential part of managing guest expectations in the early life of an attraction, store, or restaurant. If things don’t go according to plan, nobody is worried.
Guests are often delighted to get the chance ‘to give it a go’ or to be there first. If anything, a ride evacuation is a bit of an adventure during a soft opening!
For some strange reason though, Universal decided to pass the duty of ‘Soft Opening testing’ to special Diagon Alley Vacation Package guests instead of opportunistic #potterwatch fans waiting eagerly outside Diagon Alley.
The Diagon Alley Vacation Package guests were now effectively paying to be the Escape From Gringotts ride’s guinea pigs.
From what we understand, when booking, guests were advised that ‘from June 29th’ they could get privileged access to Diagon Alley in return for their stay at a Universal Orlando Resort hotel.
As they quickly discovered in the small print, that didn’t mean that they were guaranteed access each day or all day, as the 29th passed away without a glimpse of Diagon Alley.
Come June 30th, guests did make it into Diagon Alley for only a few hours of the day, but many were evacuated from a broken Gringotts ride, just like many of the press invitees a whole week earlier.
Gringotts, it seems, simply isn’t quite ready yet.
Understandably, a few grumbles have been heard from Universal’s privileged and eager guests, and we can only hope that the ride gets better quickly before they head home.
Universal deserve immense praise for not taking the easy route with Diagon Alley.
This huge development is without doubt one of the most carefully planned and meticulously designed attraction areas in the world, and nobody at Universal deserves any grief for doing the right things.
A tea cup ride and a few kiosks could have been built in Diagon Alley, but no, Universal went for gold, and in record time. They deserve a bit of slack we guess, but please do bear in mind, that the Gringotts ride is the sole creation of Universal Creative, and not, as is usually the case, supplied by a ride manufacturer.
The main question about the Escape From Gringotts Ride is this;
Are the teething troubles minor sensor adjustments, or an over sensitive safety management system that needs fine tuning, or is it the tell tale sign of a ride that might always stop frequently, much in the same way as the Rip Ride Rockit does after 5 years of service?
Fingers crossed for the special vacation guests, and particularly for the Universal Creative Team, they deserve a great result from Diagon Alley, for not taking the easy route!
Editor: We bet Universal avoid pre-selling special attraction preview tickets again!