Next up from those chipper, cash-hungry folks at the Walt Disney Co.: the Happiest Arcades on Earth.

The House of Mouse said it is ready to rumble with Sega's GameWorks and other so-called "location-based entertainment," spending more than $1 billion over the next 10 years to build 20 to 30 Disney-fied destination arcades worldwide.

This is definitely not your old-school pinball parlor. DisneyQuest is an attempt to create a mini-Disneyland within a sprawling 100,000-foot complex. Each outlet is divided into four different "zones" replete with video games and rides, which the Disney folks describe with all the standard buzzwords: high-tech, virtual reality, interactive.

Attractions include a virtual jungle cruise, in which guests paddle through a prehistoric panorama; CyberSpace Mountain, where you can actually design and then ride a roller coaster, thanks to a 360-degree pitch-and-roll simulator; Astro Blaster, featuring bumper cars that shoot balls; and Ride the Comix, where you and a friend wage a virtual reality battle with infamous Disney villains like Captain Hook.

When guests get hungry they can head to the two restaurant areas featuring high-end, "gourmet" fast food and beverages provided, in part, by the Cheesecake Factory chain.

Or, as Disney boss Michael Eisner chirps in a press release: "DisneyQuest combines the excitement of the Disney brand with innovation, design, technology and story-telling to create a vibrant venue for interactive entertainment that provides a dynamic new kind of Disney experience for the entire family."

DisneyQuest is the second enterprise from Disney's year-old Regional Entertainment division. The first was Club Disney, a play center for young children. The first of 100 planned clubs opened late last year in Thousands Oaks, California. DisneyQuest is expected to court older kids and their families.

The first DisneyQuest, in the works for three years, is scheduled to open in Orlando, Florida, next summer with another due in Chicago in 1999.

Pioneered by the Dallas-based Dave & Buster's--a chain of clubs offering food, drinks and state-of-the-art reality games--the location-based entertainment genre has exploded in recent months, thanks to Hollywood's budding interest. Last summer DreamWorks SKG, Sega Enterprises and Universal Studios teamed to launch GameWorks, which now has arcades in three cities. Sony is building a four-story entertainment center in San Francisco. The company has said it plans similar ventures in other cities.

Is the market getting overcrowded to support Disney's new venture? Not according to industry observers. "Every mall has an arcade...Disney is creating its own version, and will expand it and take it to a whole new level like they always do," says Tim O'Brien, editor of the trade Amusement Business.

Besides, he says, the new wave of arcades from Disney, Sega, Sony and company will probably not spring up in the all the same markets. "They have brilliant minds and deep pockets. If they're smart, they'll stay away from each other."

O'Brien adds that he expects, "total magic," and, "very cool stuff that's never been done before...This is especially great for those of us who grew up with the theme parks, with the Disney culture. Now, we've got something for our age group, too."

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