Commentary

In 'Star Wars' Augmented Universe, All Paths Lead To The Mall

Just a few short months from the opening of Star Wars: The Last Jedi, it’s time to get that venerable Disney Lucasfilm merchandising machine cranking again. Early this morning, it revealed a force to be reckoned with. 

September 1, the day its toys from the movie opening Dec. 15 are scheduled to populate shelves in the known retail world, will also see the launch of an augmented reality app that combines the enticing elements of Pokémon Go with the eye-on-the-prize lure of Publishing Clearing House Sweepstakes.

“To spur foot traffic — no easy thing in this retail age, even for Star Wars — the company has come up with a promotional stunt that is striking in its breadth: Some 20,000 stores in 30 countries will offer an augmented reality event that will allow participants to uncover Last Jedi characters,” writes Brooks Barnes for the New York Times.

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Participating retailers for “Force Friday II” include Walmart, Target, Best Buy and Apple. 

"Using augmented reality technology, users will see the characters overlaid on their surroundings by looking through their phones’ cameras, and can take photos or videos with them,” reports Reuters’ Lisa Richwine. 

“Depending on the size of the retailer, they will have up to five different displays, each featuring characters like Rey or the new Executioner Stormtroopers,” reports Bryan Bishop for The Verge. “… The displays will each invoke a new character for every day of the event, resulting in a total of 15 different unlockable characters. In the demos shown to The Verge, the app included Admiral Ackbar, the Execution Stormtrooper, Chewbacca, and a member of Supreme Leader Snoke’s Praetorian Guard.” 

“The hunt for Star Wars characters is scheduled to last three days and will coincide with ‘Force Friday II,’ the day retailers start selling toys and other products tied to The Last Jedi with midnight openings around the world,” Reuters’ Richwine reports.

“Disney is trying to do three things: sell a ton of Star Wars merchandise; activate the Star Wars fan base in support of the new movie; and draw in new fans, particularly younger ones captivated by technology,” the NYT’s Barnes tells us. 

“But ahead of the launch, the new (and adorable) Last Jedi Porg characters can be unlocked starting Thursday if you have the latest version of the Star Wars app (version 2.3 or higher)” by scanning a code that’s cleverly embedded in Aaron Couch’s story for the Hollywood Reporter (and elsewhere). 

“Force Friday was a big hit in 2015 (read Heat Vision's Borys Kit's tales from braving the midnight crowds here). And this year, the augmented reality game may even [win] fans a trip to see Star Wars royalty in person. If you tweet photos or videos of your characters using the hashtags using #FindtheForce and #Sweepstakes during Force Friday II weekend, you'll be entered in a chance to attend the Last Jedi premiere,” Couch reports.

The Last Jedi, writer/director Rian Johnson’s follow-up to 2015’s blockbuster The Force Awakens, returns [Daisy Ridley’s lightsaber-wielding Rey], John Boyega as reluctant Resistance hero Finn, Oscar Isaac as X-wing pilot Poe Dameron and Adam Driver as the villainous Kylo Ren, plus introduces Benicio Del Toro and Laura Dern to the Star Wars universe,” USA Today’s Brian Truitt writes.

“The first Force Friday promotion in 2015, tied toThe Force Awakens, sparked a sevenfold increase in online sales of Star Wars toys for the month of September. The studio drummed up excitement for new action figures and toys with a global unwrapping of Star Wars merchandise on YouTube and coverage on ABC’s “Good Morning America.” The movie went on to become the top-grossing U.S. movie ever,” reports Anousha Sakoui for Bloomberg.

“Force Friday II is a major milestone in the countdown to Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Star Wars has always championed new technology, and we are excited that augmented reality will allow fans to experience the universe in a whole new way,” says Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy in a statement.

And purchase and bring home the likes of R2D2, just as they have been doing for 40 years now.

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