“We have equipped more than 25 parks worldwide with our VR upgrade in less than a year.”

Michael Mack, Chief Executive Officer, Europa-Park

We have to work with the technology of today and tomorrow to deliver our guests a great experience.

Innoboard: There is no consistent definition of digitization. Every industry and every department perceive it and react differently. What does digitization mean for MackMedia and the well-known Europa-Park in Rust?

Michael Mack: More than 236 years ago, my family declared its goal to provide people unforgettable moments. Since then, the company motto has been “The wide world is my field”. The Mack family always tried to expand their offer to respond to the customers demand. As Charles Darwin said: „It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.” And that is key to the success!

Thinking about how to define “digitization” in the context of Europa-Park and MackMedia, I would tend to say that it´s about creating a digital world of adventure which delivers emotional moments visitors have known and appreciated from Europa-Park. We have to work with the technology of today and tomorrow to deliver our guests a great experience not only in the park itself, but also in the digital world.

In September 2015 you introduced your Virtual Reality Coaster − COASTIALITY − a rollercoaster that combines the traditional rollercoaster with virtual worlds. What have been the main challenges? What are your customer’s reactions?

Our world premiere of the first virtual reality rollercoaster Alpenexpress Coastiality caused a stir among visitors and in the media last year. Since the beginning of this season, two attractions have been showcasing the incredible experience when VR technology is combined with theme park engineering. Moreover, we realised the first interactive dark ride with Atlantis Adventure − Horror Nights Coastiality.

Today, our rides are home to perfectly synchronized 360-degree animations. It has been a long road and the technical development has been very challenging.

So far, more than 650,000 passengers have tried the rollercoaster upgrade in Europa-Park – whilst worldwide there have been more than 2.5 million people who have chosen to ride a VR coaster. Our guests love the combination of VR technology and traditional ride features.

With MackMedia, you develop and produce lots of content for your customers in the Europa-Park as well as for many online channels. How do you generate ideas? Which partners do you involve in the idea generation?

We constantly search for novelties and unique attractions. We are passionate about what we do and always strive to optimize, innovate and create new things.

Specialised on theme park needs, we provide full range products and services for all-round entertainment. We set great value on high quality production, day-to-day innovation, teamwork and fair partnerships. For instance, we are world market leader with our VR rides. Our parent company Mack Rides, based in Waldkirch, designs and produces rollercoasters, whilst MackMedia develops creative concepts and VR Coaster creates the VR experience that connects the three. Thus a complete package can be put together.

Another example is our new Coastiality App which offers visitors at-home entertainment and provides them with 360° worlds to dive into.

After generating many ideas, you need to manage large idea portfolios. How do you ensure selecting and funding the right ideas and innovation projects?

As a traditional family business we attach great importance to organic growth and our visitor’s satisfaction. The Macks all live inside the park and are in daily contact with our visitors. The park could be described as extended living room of our homes: we want to take care of our guests once they get here and we want them to enjoy their day so that they want to come back soon. We are constantly in contact with our guests which helps us identifying strengths and weaknesses of our product.

If we notice that a new attraction or a new show isn’t as popular as we expected it to be, we notice it first hand by the reactions of our guests and change it right away. An attraction is never really finished here at Europa-Park.

Gamification becomes increasingly important and also industries like the automotive industry are using this concept for developing new services. In your opinion, why do people react so positively to gamification approaches? Is this concept applicable outside the leisure industry?

In my mind, the gamification concept is definitely applicable outside the leisure industry. Playing is the most natural way of both learning new skills and acquiring new behavior.

From a psychological perspective, playing also speaks to various, development-specific motives human beings strive after – the need comparing oneself to others, becoming the best in an area, or simply entertaining oneself.

What is your personal goal regarding digitization and innovation for the next 12 months?

Our concept “leisure industry of tomorrow – invented, developed and realized by Mack today” guarantees success also in the 21st century. We have equipped more than 25 parks worldwide with our VR upgrade in less than a year. Theoretically, more than 2,000 steel rollercoasters could be equipped with our VR technology. The whole concept of automatic synchronization and communication of a ride with mobile VR headsets has already been patented. The potential of this export hit is huge.

Apart from that, we would like to continue the process of digitization and digitalization − both internally and in particular externally − with new exciting offerings in as well as outside the park. Stay tuned for more news!

About the interviewee:

Michael Mack was born in Freiburg, Germany in 1978. He is part of the 8th generation of the Mack family, which to this day is the only family in the world manufacturing rides and operating a theme park at the same time.

In 2003, he graduated in International Business Management and completed his tri-national studies as a qualified business economist. Growing up with the park he learned the business from the first moment on and expanded his knowledge by completing several internships and study programs in theme parks within Germany and abroad.

In 2002, Michael Mack founded Mack Media as an independent media business in order to align the family business with the digitalization of society and changing behaviors within the leisure industry. From the beginning of 2005, he strengthened the working relationship between the ride manufacturer Mack Rides in Waldkirch and Europa-Park. He is part of the executive board of Mack Rides GmbH & Co KG. Michael Mack is further responsible for park operations, the design department Mack Solutions, construction management, media & digital development, IT and strategic business development at Europa-Park – as an authorized representative since 2007, and as a member of the executive board since 2016.

Michael Mack has been a member of the European board of the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA) since 2010. He is also managing partner and co-founder of VR Coaster, a start-up company for the integration of virtual reality worlds into the family business.

In 2016, he received the CampdenFB Award for ‘Top Next Generation Entrepreneur’ and was also voted among the Top 40 leaders under 40 by the magazine “Capital”.