Mobile game blends shopping with hunt for pic's villian

Retailers are getting creative in how they’re trying to lure customers into their stores to buy merchandise tied to Disney and Marvel’s “The Avengers,” with Walmart launching a scavenger hunt-style mobile game that has shoppers search for products while battling the film’s villain.

The “Super Hero” game, available as a free app Thursday through Apple’s iTunes App Store and the Android Market, uses augmented reality technology to activate elements onscreen when a smartphone or tablet is held up to in-store displays in aisles.

A 3D version of a superhero will come to life when the device is held up to a DVD pallet, for example. Displays will also encourage that users post photos with characters on social-networking platforms, to promote the pic.

App also will activate additional content through codes in Walmart’s newspaper circulars.

Walmart created the app with Marvel Entertainment as a way to tap into the more than 100 million augmented reality-capable smartphones in consumers’ hands. Target recently opted to go the more traditional route with a print campaign that combines the company’s regular household items to form Iron Man’s mask, Thor’s hammer or the Hulk’s fist.

With players helping the arrow-shooting hero Hawkeye unlock the superpowers of five other Avengers (Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, the Hulk and Black Widow) to defeat Loki, game should keep kids occupied while their parents shop.

But the game’s designers also expect older shoppers among Marvel’s core male demo of 14-34 year olds to also find the app appealing and help Walmart reach that elusive buyer.

“We’re always looking for innovative ways to have fun with our customers in stores,” said Sarah Spencer, director of Walmart PR.

Naturally, the retailer hopes happy customers will translate to increased sales of the more than 600 “Avengers”-related products stocked in its stores across categories that include apparel, grocery, toys and wireless, the latter through T-Mobile. Among those exclusive items are a trio of Iron Man, Hulk and Captain America masks for $29.99.

“We hope that while they’re unlocking characters, they get interested in an action figure,” Spencer said.

Walmart and Marvel also have integrated “The Avengers'” promo partners like Dr. Pepper, Red Baron pizza and Hershey’s candy in the game, with displays for their products key to unlocking heroes.

“Most of the time, promotional partners are looking for retail activation to make their programs stand out,” said Mark Rhodes, senior VP of North American retail development at Marvel Entertainment. “We are always looking for opportunities to develop unique retail programs with our partners and feel the ‘Super Hero Augmented Reality’ app enables fans to extend both their shopping and movie experience in an interactive way.”

Game will be playable for the next six weeks. Pic bows May 4.

The game marks the first time Walmart has launched an augmented reality experience tied to a film, and hopes to create more around other titles, depending on the popularity of “The Avengers” app.

“We’re committed to creating engaging and fun experiences at Walmart, and we’ve tapped different areas of the store for movie fans to interact with the mobile app while shopping,” and bridge the gap between the physical store and mobile gaming, said Seong Ohm, senior VP and general merchandise manager for entertainment, Walmart U.S.

Related: Disney, Marvel offer do-it-yourself ‘Avengers’ vids

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