Press release: 1996-09-12: INTERNATIONAL MANAGER : Sega Tests the Theme-Park Route

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Language: English
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LONDON— Sporting a wall-sized video screen and scores of video games and rides, the newly opened Segaworld carries Sega Enterprises Ltd.'s hopes of becoming a bigger player in the consumer-products world as well as a growing theme-park name.

Segaworld, which opened last weekend, occupies 110,000 square feet (10,200 square meters) on seven floors in the Trocadero entertainment center in Piccadilly Circus. It is said to be the largest indoor theme park in the world, dwarfing Sega's two existing theme parks in Japan. The company invested 8 billion yen ($73.1 million) in this European flagship operation.

According to Yasuo Tazoe, director and group general manger in Sega's development division, the company plans to create 100 similar theme parks around the world over the next five years. Mr. Tazoe said its effort would be different from that of Walt Disney Co., which he said tended to put vast resources into a few large outdoor ventures, by opening its sites for 2 billion to 5 billion yen each. Sega said it planned to open 15 of its parks in or near major European capitals and said it expected Segaworld to show a profit within three years.

Paris is the most likely venue for the next European Segaworld, but Sydney is set to be the next official opening, sometime in the next 18 months. The theme parks might also lift Sega's prospects worldwide. In the early 1980s Sega was the foremost name in video games, but it soon saw its market taken over by video games based on personal computers and other successful manufacturers such as Nintendo Co. If the parks prove successful, Sega said, it might move into related markets such as theme-based movies and television programming.

"In Europe Sega has to work very hard in the consumer market," Mr. Tazoe said. "We will take this idea as far as it will go. It will have a synergy effect. We're providing the thrills and enjoyment people can't get at home."

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Segaworld also will be used to help Sega's other products by acting as a venue and a showcase.

"It will be a vehicle for Sega itself," said Peter Searle, operations and development director for Sega Amusements Europe Ltd. "Both consumer and coin-operated launches will take place here," he said, pointing out that the Saturn game system will be launched at the facility and that game peripherals will be available in Segaworld's on-site store.

Designed for a maximum of 3,000 people, Segaworld includes six rides, some of which use holograms, motion simulation, high-resolution graphics and virtual reality, all to create sensations like those at an outdoor theme park. "We've designed it to have at most a 30-minute queue time for special attractions," Mr. Searle said, compared with what he said were waits of as much as two hours at some major Disney theme-park attractions.

Alison Smith, a spokeswoman for Disneyland Paris, disputed that comparison. "The capacity of Space Mountain is over 2,000 people in an hour," she said, referring to the French theme park's star attraction. "The longest wait time I've ever seen is 45 minutes." She pointed out that Euro Disney SCA, operator of Disneyland Paris, posted its first profit for the three months ended June 30, 1995, about three years after it opened. "There has been an explosion of theme parks since we opened," Ms. Smith said. "The growth has been excellent. We've had over 36 million people visit Disneyland Paris." The opening of Disneyland Paris was followed by those of Parc Asterix, also near Paris, Port Aventura in Spain, Legoland in Britain and Warner Bros.' Movie World theme park in Germany this summer. "For us this is really good news," Ms. Smith said. "It shows there is a huge market of people who love coming to theme parks."

Richard Pawley, chairman of the British Association of Leisure Parks, Piers and Attractions, said he welcomed an increase in theme parks in Britain.

"With the opening of major new theme parks such as Legoland in the U.K. and Warner Bros. in Germany, all our parks will benefit from increased awareness," he said.