Tourism New Zealand is not only the world’s oldest tourism board, but renowned for both consistency and innovation.
Its “100% Pure New Zealand” brand is 21 years old — the world’s oldest destination brand.
Yet the team easily turns its mind to new projects.
And PLAY NZ was born out of that team.
For Tourism New Zealand has created a video game-style walk-through, using the country’s spectacular landscape as the backdrop.
In PLAY NZ, virtual tourists are guided by the familiar Kiwi voice of actor Julian Dennison. He’s best known for his roles in Hunt for the Wilderpeople and Deadpool 2.
“Travel and gaming have similarities,” says Andrew Waddel, Tourism New Zealand’s general manager Australia. “They are about personal experiences, adventures and sharing.
“We have used gaming as a storytelling device, to bring to life the welcoming nature of New Zealand.”
There are two aspects to the project. There is, of course, the commercial and practical. Australia is New Zealand’s biggest market for inbound tourists, and we will surely be the first internationals they welcome back.
As Andrew delicately puts it, first domestic travel will help to shore up and rebuild the travel industry, and then the two countries will need to work carefully together to reintroduce overseas travel.
But the second aspect of the project is perhaps less obvious, and more surprising, as Andrew talks about the “spiritual bond” between the two countries. “We have stood strong together in many situations,” he says, and PLAY is about keeping connected.
“PLAY NZ taps into the close neighbourly engagement.”
Indeed, the lead character is an Australian avatar called “Skip Hogan”, who travels New Zealand, encountering locals along the way. He faces a series of adventures, from mountain biking through the Redwoods Forest to whitewater rafting down Okere Falls, before coming face-to-face with music artist William Waiirua.
Skip arrives in New Zealand as a visitor and leaves as “family”.
PLAY NZ has a gamer walk-through by Australian gaming heavyweight Loserfruit, using the power of Twitch. Loserfruit has more than 4.7 million followers across Twitch, YouTube, Twitter and Instagram.
She says: “PLAY NZ squares up against fan favourites for its ability to mimic in-game play”.
Andrew explains that while the game is a fantasy, locations and experiences are real.
But the game is just part of the PLAY NZ hub.
Andrew explains: “We’ve created an immersive content hub online, where a further 18 virtual reality experiences can be discovered and booked in the real world. Ranging from Wildwire Wanaka to EcoZip Adventures and AJ Hackett Bungy in Queenstown, you’re manning the controls.” And that, Tourism New Zealand also hopes, will make the audience want to see them, for real, in future.
“Ahead of the trans-Tasman travel zone, keeping Australians engaged virtually is the most exciting offering in tourism right now. This is why we’ve launched PLAY NZ — to excite and inspire future travellers,” Andrew says.