The much-hyped virtual reality enhancement of SeaWorld’s Kraken roller coaster is no more.
SeaWorld Orlando has confirmed the VR headsets have been removed from the ride. They began being phased out during the summer because of “ride experience and guest feedback.”
“We believe that most guests still love the traditional Kraken coaster experience,” a SeaWorld spokesperson told Orlando Rising. “We are always evaluating new attraction opportunities for SeaWorld but we have no immediate plans to bring VR back to the park.”
The VR upgrade for the Kraken coaster was first announced in September 2016. The ride then went down for an extensive refurbishment before reopening as Kraken Unleashed in June of last year.
Using the onboard headsets — not the smartphone-equipped goggles used in other VR enhancements at theme parks — guests were made to feel like they were riding in a submarine trying to escape the mythical Kraken. The visuals seen through the headsets were synced to the roller coaster’s motions.
From an operations perspective, the new technology caused headaches. It took longer to load guests on and off and each headset had to be wiped down and sanitized between rides, increasing wait times. SeaWorld had anticipated this problem with a reservation system called Spot Saver, where guests could reserve a ride time and be guaranteed no more than a 30-minute wait.
The headsets had been removed from the ride once before in January, and it wasn’t until June that guests saw the equipment being reinstalled. This time around, the headsets were only in place on the middle four rows of the coaster trains, with four other rows offering a VR-free ride.
In August, theme park blog Screamscape reported the headsets had been turned off, with the pouches housing the VR hardware closed with zip ties.
Other theme parks have kept their VR enhancements, most notably at Six Flags theme parks around the country. In Central Florida, Legoland has its own VR coaster called the Great Lego Race.
Disney World hasn’t jumped on the VR bandwagon within its four parks, but it does offer a virtual reality experience at The VOID in Disney Springs. Currently themed around “Star Wars,” a new attraction based on “Wreck-It Ralph” is set to open later this fall.