Sega plans virtual reality theme park

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The Independent Online
The first virtual reality theme park in Europe, where families can simulate the battles of Star Wars or play "Mad Bazooka" on interactive dodgems, is due to open next year in London, writes David Nicholson-Lord.

Sega, the Japanese games company, plans to spend £45m creating a "Disneyland in microcosm" at the Trocadero centre, near Piccadilly Circus in London. It will join such attractions as Planet Hollywood, the Golden Nugget Casino, Funland and Rank's Virtual World, due to open in May.

Nick Leslau, chief executive of Burfold Holdings, the property group which owns the Trocadero, said it would then be the "hi-tech entertainment centre of Europe".

The theme park, to open in the summer of 1996, will occupy 100,000sq ft on four floors. It will include a carnival area, sports zone, themed restaurants and shopping. However, the main attraction will be six big interactive rides, based on rides at Sega's Yokohama theme park.

In VR1, people wear virtual reality masks and climb inside space pods which attack - and are attacked by - starships in an "intergalactic environment". In Mad Bazooka, people climb inside dodgem cars and fire 80mph plastic balls at each other through bazooka guns, a "sophisticated" point-scoring system working out the winner.

Sega said the theme park would not be a glorified amusement arcade, but "entertainment for all the family" - like Disneyland.

Typical ride prices will be about £1.50 a person.

Mr Leslau said that, unlike a "real" white-knuckle ride - an expensive capital investment - a "virtual" ride could be changed every six months merely by altering software.