SegaWorld London

SegaWorld London was an indoor theme park opened by Sega in the London Trocadero, London, in September 1996. At 110,000 square feet, it was claimed to be the largest indoor theme park in the world.[1] It was Sega's flagship venue in Europe and the first Sega theme park outside of Japan. It closed in September 1999.

SegaWorld London
SegaWorld London Rocket Entrance 2.png
LocationThe Trocadero, Piccadilly Circus, London, England
Opened7 September 1996
Closed7 September 1999
Attractions
Total7
StatusRemoved

HistoryEdit

DevelopmentEdit

During the early 1990s, Sega grew exponentially, as a result of a successful reinvigoration of their once-fledgling Sega Genesis home console in the United States and Europe and the popularity of the Sonic the Hedgehog mascot character.[2] Additionally, an initially lucrative stream of income had been created by the openings of a number of family-oriented amusement facilities under the name of Sega World, as part of an ongoing initiative by the company to clean up arcades.[3] Starting out in Japan and Taiwan, Sega Worlds eventually appeared in the United Kingdom after the buyout of arcade machine distributors Deith Leisure by Sega's European management.[3] At the same time, the London Trocadero complex, relaunched the previous decade as a shopping centre, was receiving a boost from numerous unrelated video gaming facilities, including the popular Funland amusement arcade,[4] however its upper floors were still largely vacant after the closure of its previous 1960s tenants.

The Trocadero was originally intended to be the site for a smaller scale Sega amusement venue, scheduled to open shortly after the launch of the then-flagship Sega World centre in Bournemouth during July 1993.[5] This was aborted, with Sega instead opening venues in other London locations like Colindale's Oriental City shopping centre in the following months.[6] However, by January 1995, a new deal had been reached with Trocadero owner Nick Leslau to create a venue under Sega's "Amusement Theme Park" concept,[7] which launched the previous year in Japan with the openings of Osaka ATC Galbo in the Asian Trade Center, Osaka, and the first Joypolis indoor theme park in Shin-Yamashita, Yokohama.[8] The park would contain much of the same interactive attractions released in Japan during the previous years and developed by Sega's AM5 division, including the AS-1 simulator.[9]

Construction began on SegaWorld London in late 1995. Proposed to use 100,000 square feet across the seven unused floors of the Trocadero building, it instigated a large-scale refurbishment of the central shopping atrium itself in the process.[10] At least £45 million was revealed to have been spent on the park's creation,[11] with Sega appointing numerous firms such as Tibbats Associates and RTKL for its design.[10] Anticipation for the opening was created in a number of gaming magazines; Sega staged a number of press events centred around the construction of the centre during 1996. A high-level sponsorship deal was made with Pepsi to sponsor the Trocadero in the weeks leading up to the opening, though this did not benefit Sega directly.[12]

OpeningEdit

Initially slated for a Summer 1996 opening, SegaWorld London eventually opened to the public on September 7, 1996, after a private press party event held at the end of the previous month. Launched in the midst of a £1.5 million advertising campaign created by Mustoe Merriman and Motive,[13] the openings were attended by several celebrities, including Robbie Williams, Anneka Rice, and Jarvis Cocker, and covered by numerous magazines and television programmes, with T3[14] and Newsround[15] among them. The day following the public opening, a second press party was held for ECTS 1996 attendees, which also included the UK launch of Sega's Nights into Dreams video game.[16]

The three launches, particularly the public opening, did not run as planned. Though positive comments were made towards the park's large "Rocket Escalator", the variety of coin-operated arcade machines on offer, and the advanced VR-1 attraction, reception for most other aspects of it was poor.[17] Common problems cited included overly long queue lines (despite Sega stating they would not occur[1]), overpriced entry fees, and a lack of enthusiasm for the supposed "futuractive" attractions on offer[14] - several reviewers noted that one ride, Beast In Darkness, was little more than a haunted house/ghost train ride with no interactivity,[18] nor did any utilise Sega's portfolio of popular intellectual properties in spite of the heavy usage of the Sonic the Hedgehog character as a mascot.

Due to the poor reviews, mismanaged crowd control, and general state of disappointment over what was initially promised by Sega, the opening of SegaWorld London was largely regarded as a PR disaster,[19] denting the brand's once-strong reputation in the United Kingdom and setting an unfortunate precedent for the venue, as well as future endeavours. Subsequently, Sega would open only one more indoor theme park location outside of Japan during the 1990s, Sega World Sydney, despite the touted plans for over 100 locations across the world by the end of the decade under their Amusement Theme Park concept.[20] Others were earmarked, but ultimately never realised, for a number of other European locations, including Paris.[1]

Decline and closureEdit

In response to the criticisms raised in reviews, Sega initially put the majority of the SegaWorld's arcade machines on freeplay in the weeks after opening.[21] However, this model was not profitable, with much of the park's floor space devoted to the cabinets. By the end of the year, admission fees had been cut down from £12 and £10 to £2, taking the arcade machines off freeplay and establishing ticket payments for the park's seven attractions as a result.[22] These did little to turn around fortunes, and by the time the first full year of operations had been completed, its 1.75 million visitor target had not been achieved, and a £1 million loss from running the facility was recorded.[22] Difficulties were also faced in maintaining rides; a number were reported to have broken down in the weeks following the opening.[18]

Further restructuring was required for SegaWorld to run unproblematically, and in December 1997 all admission fees were removed from the park, effectively rendering it a large-scale amusement arcade with rides.[22] Though this improved attendance numbers considerably, with an estimated 4 million visitors in 1998,[22] it did not mean a profit was being made off of the park; indeed, an operating loss of £2 million was recorded during the same year.[23] Other strains on the centre included vandalism concerns, internal distaste for the park's perceived poor working standards, and its close proximity to other London amusement arcades more popular with regular visitors, such as Namco's Wonder Park facility on Great Windmill Street.[24]

Though new Sega arcade releases were consistently location tested and installed exclusively at the venue as a result of its flagship status,[25] few new attractions were installed after the opening. A new 3D IMAX cinema and drop tower ride sponsored by Pepsi renewed tourist interest in the Trocadero.[26] As part of the original agreements drawn up to create SegaWorld in 1995, Sega were contractually bound to pull out of running the facility if a £3 million profit had not been recorded exactly three years after opening.[12]

LegacyEdit

SegaWorld London remains one of the largest amusement facilities developed under Sega to date. Though its failure and critical panning can be seen as emblematic of wider problems within the company and the declining arcade industry during the late 1990s, it is looked back on fondly by many visitors, and has been the subject of numerous fan works, including videos and articles, in recent years.[27][28]

Its closure and subsequent rebranding to become the Funland amusement arcade (ironically under a company established by one of Sega's original founders, Marty Bromley[29]) inadvertently led to the Trocadero becoming a central hub for London's then-nascent rhythm game community, with numerous notable events and notable games held at the location until its permanent closure in 2011.

OperationsEdit

Taking up 7 floors of the London Trocadero building when launched, SegaWorld London was officially billed as an indoor theme park.[1] Its further 6 attractions and themes backed this up, however unlike a typical theme park, these were not unified under a single concept. In addition, much of the park's attraction was its selection of 400+ coin-operated arcade machines,[22] spread out across 6 of the floors and placed in a uniform manner, generally in keeping with a floor's theme. Due to its status as a flagship Sega facility, SegaWorld also received numerous games on location test, as well as rarely seen Japanese import cabinets such as Dennou Senki Net Merc and SegaSonic the Hedgehog.

LayoutEdit

After entering the Trocadero through its shopping arcade entrance, visitors embarked up the venue's "Rocket Escalator" (Europe's largest above ground escalator) sited in the middle of the main atrium to access the 7 SegaWorld floors. These would then be navigated through a further series of escalators and travelators, working their way back down to the main atrium of the Trocadero.[30]

  • Reception - The park's welcoming area, containing information desks, a cloak room, and photo opportunity areas with large statues of the Sonic the Hedgehog mascot character, as well as the entrance for the first attraction, Beast In Darkness.
  • Combat Zone - Modelled more on a dimly-lit conventional video arcade, with over 50 action games and no attractions.
  • Race Track - Themed around racing, featuring over 70 driving games and the Aqua Planet attraction. One of Damon Hill's FW15C cars from the 1993 Formula One season was also sited as a photo opportunity.
  • Flight Deck - Over 20 air combat games (including a Sega R360) and the VR-1: Space Mission attraction, with aviation-themed décor and a decommissioned RAF Harrier Jump Jet hung from its ceiling.
  • The Carnival - A brightly-lit arena with over 80 arcade machines, generally prize redemption. Also housed the Segakids area for children, an on-site McDonald's outlet, and the Ghost Hunt attraction.
  • Sports Arena - Mad Bazooka and AS-1 attractions contrasted the floor's sporting theme, illustrated with over 90 sports games and a large surfing Sonic the Hedgehog statue.

A second McDonald's outlet and the on-site Sega Shop were sited directly opposite the exit escalator into the main Trocadero atrium; the latter is believed to have later been moved to the Sports Arena.

AttractionsEdit

Though there was no unified theme in SegaWorld, much of its main allure was its pretences of offering "futuractive" rides with interactive elements. In reality, few of the attractions installed at the venue drew upon particularly advanced technology, however most did feature some interactive element.[30]

  • Beast In Darkness - A standard haunted house/ghost train type ride, making use of projection screens and live actors.
  • Aqua Planet - Known as Aqua Nova at other Sega venues. Simulates an interactive underwater shoot 'em up battle through 3D glasses, hydraulically driven seats, and two buttons.
  • VR-1: Space Mission - Utilises four hydraulic eight-seater pods and the Mega Visor Display headset developed by Sega AM3 with Virtuality Group to offer an advanced virtual reality experience to riders.
  • Ghost Hunt - Known as Ghost Hunters at other Sega venues. An interactive ghost train ride, tasking riders to shoot 3D ghosts projected onto a transparent concave screen with two mounted gun yokes.
  • Mad Bazooka - A modified bumper car arena, making use of shooting elements by equipping the carts with turrets, targets, and the ability to collect and then shoot coloured foam balls placed on the floor at each other.
  • AS-1 - Two motion simulator pods running semi-interactive ridefilms, including Scramble Training and Megalopolis.

Later additions to the park included Power Sled and The Lost World: Jurassic Park Special attractions, however these could be found at many other Sega facilities across the world, unlike the fewer examples that many of its original attractions appeared in.

See alsoEdit

External linksEdit

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ a b c d "INTERNATIONAL MANAGER : Sega Tests the Theme-Park Route". The New York Times.
  2. ^ Kent, Steven L. (2001). The Ultimate History of Video Games: The Story Behind the Craze that Touched our Lives and Changed the World. Prima Publishing. p. [1]. ISBN 978-0-7615-3643-7.
  3. ^ a b "Cool World". Mega Power. No. 2. September 1993. p. [2].
  4. ^ "HEART OF DARKNESS?". The Independent.
  5. ^ "Cool World". Mega Power. No. 2. September 1993. p. [3].
  6. ^ "The ulitmate game centre". Sega Force Mega. No. 7. January 1994. p. [4].
  7. ^ "Future Active". Computer & Video Games. No. 175. June 1996. p. [5].
  8. ^ "Sega!". Bloomberg.
  9. ^ "21 部署に聞きました!". Sega Saturn Magazine. No. 1996–09. June 1996. p. [6].
  10. ^ a b "Tibbatts leads Segaworld project". Design Week.
  11. ^ "Enter the Sega-Dome". Ultimate Future Games. No. 6. May 1995. p. [7].
  12. ^ a b "Sega makes a play to win back top UK slot". Marketing Week.
  13. ^ "NEWS: Mustoe Merriman and Motive win pounds 1m Segaworld work". Campaign.
  14. ^ a b "Segaworld VR park opens". T3. No. 1. November 1996. p. [8].
  15. ^ "SegaWorld indoor theme park opens, 1996". Newsround. London. 3 September 1996. BBC One.
  16. ^ "Checkpoint". Computer & Video Games. No. 178. September 1996. p. [9].
  17. ^ "SEGAWORLD NOT SO GOOD!". Computer & Video Games Freeplay. No. 7. November 1996. p. [10].
  18. ^ a b "I have seen the future of fun. And it works. Sort of". The Independent.
  19. ^ "Nick Leslau brings his millions to London's ancient harbour". The Guardian.
  20. ^ "Sega Takes Aim at Disney's World". The New York Times.
  21. ^ "News". GamesMaster. London. 31 October 1996. Channel 4.
  22. ^ a b c d e "The saga of SegaWorld London". Let's Look Again.
  23. ^ "Trade Mark Invalidity Decision (O/152/03)" (PDF). Intellectual Property Office.
  24. ^ "Games, the final frontier". The Independent.
  25. ^ "Sega World". Saturn Power. No. 9. January 1998. p. [11].
  26. ^ "Travel UK: Summer '99: Ten of the Best Thrill Rides in the UK". The Independent.
  27. ^ "SEGAWORLD LONDON REMEMBERED". Digitiser.
  28. ^ "The Definitive History of Sega World London". YouTube.
  29. ^ "Industry icon Marty Bromley passes away". Intergame.
  30. ^ a b "Sega World". Saturn Power. No. 9. January 1998. p. [12].