Shift has evolved.

Shift Auckland is now Digital Arts Network.

Read the Media Release

Take a Flight

Take a flight through Middle-Earth with our game for Tourism New Zealand

  • Users uncover a painterly map of New Zealand as they fly around the screen.

The Brief

Tourism New Zealand asked Digital Arts to create an online experience embedded in to support media activity around the release of “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” in December 2013.

The experience needed to leverage fans’ interest in the film -- to help users engage with the reality of New Zealand, through the fantasy of Middle Earth. Ultimately, it needed to drive consideration of New Zealand as a preferred travel destination.

The Opportunity

Research told us that imagery showing the diversity of experiences, and maps demonstrating proximity were key to converting potential visitors to New Zealand.

We determined to use the hero locations of the film to draw users into exploring the real New Zealand; to use 3D animation to provide a seamless, immersive experience; and to use gamification to prolong and deepen engagement with the content.

Finally, we targeted an HTML5 build for tablet and desktop, to maximise reach.

  • Users can see other players around the world, in real-time.
  • Players can discover 40 locations and experiences.
  • Key locations are presented through 3D flyarounds.
  • Uncovering four key locations unlocks a final reward...

The Solution

To create a deep, immersive experience, we partnered with Assembly to design an experience that pushed the boundaries of HTML5 technology.

Using the iconic bird from the closing frames of the first Hobbit film, we cast our user as a bird flying over the real New Zealand.

Using topographical data, we built a map of New Zealand that revealed itself in real time as users flew overhead. A user could enjoy uncovering the diverse landscapes within the map, or use an embedded compass to guide them to 40 collectable location cards around New Zealand.

As the user collected cards, we added birds to their flock. They would also see and interact with the flocks of other users around the world in real-time.

The ultimate game element was to collect a key to each of four hero film locations. Unlocked, each experience opened an animated scene revealing film artefacts, video and image galleries, as well as local activities and experiences.

For true fans, collection of all four keys gave them access to exclusive Weta-animated content inspired by film.

Social log-in enabled a display name and location in the multi-user map; and enabled multiple sharing options.

Finally, whenever a user left the experience, a lightbox displayed the content they had interacted with, encouraging them to save to a account for further exploration.


Engagement with the game was phenomenal; 1 in 7 players completed the game!

Compared to average visitors, people that interacted with the game were:

  • twice as likely to generate a sales lead.
  • spent 390% time on site.
  • had 250% return visitation.


Play the game on >