Miami GameWorks attraction opens

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MIAMI -- The first GameWorks attraction on the East Coast opened here early this year amid plans to market this and other GameWorks to the travel trade.

The interactive entertainment attraction here, inspired by "E.T." and "Jurassic Park" creator Steven Spielberg, is the eighth opened in less than two years and the third in a major visitor destination. The other two are in Las Vegas and Anaheim, Calif. The 31,000-square-foot facility here is part of the Shops at Sunset Place, a new entertainment and shopping complex on U.S. 1 in South Miami, just south of Coral Gables.

Besides GameWorks, anchors of the new complex include South Florida's first Virgin music megastore, an IMAX theater, a 24-theater movieplex, FAO Schwarz and a Niketown.

GameWorks is a joint venture of Sega GameWorks, Spielberg's DreamWorks SKG, and Universal Studios. It consists of nearly 200 high-tech electronic games, music videos, the Grill sit-down restaurant, two sophisticated bars, a clothing souvenir shop and two private rooms for meetings.

Admission to GameWorks is free, and no cash is deposited into game machines. A programmed play card is sold at a cashier's box at various price levels, which in turn are tied to game units. "We are promoting GameWorks, particularly in major visitor destinations, as a kind of micro-destination," said Dale Freer, vice president of sales, based in Universal City, Calif. "Our intention is for GameWorks to be a top-of-mind attraction for visitors in major tourist destinations," he said.

The GameWorks here as well as those in Las Vegas and Anaheim are already being marketed to the overseas travel trade, he said, and a domestic trade campaign aimed at motorcoach operators and meeting planners is planned. Products being developed for wholesalers include the play card, meal options and merchandise, Freer said. "We've had a tremendous response from wholesalers," he added, such as those from Australia, Brazil, Great Britain and Japan. "Most wholesalers want to incorporate the meal," he said, "because the dinner experience can round out an entire evening's entertainment."

He said the convention market has demonstrated strong interest, particularly in Las Vegas, with all or part of the facilities available for private use, including private guest rooms. "We're working already with some of the top companies in the country, particularly in Las Vegas and Anaheim, Calif.," he said.

GameWorks is working with travel companies on the basis of net pricing or a standard 10% commission. The demographics for GameWorks is from 18 to 35 years, he said, adding: "Gamers of all ages really get into it."

The centerpiece of GameWorks is the Arena, where the game Vertical Reality allows 12 players at a time to compete in a vertical challenge game which has a 24-foot descending "free fall." Another key area is the Loading Dock, where state-of-the-art games are straight from Sega's development laboratories in Japan and the U.S.

By the end of this year, a total of 11 domestic GameWorks, ranging from 30,000 to 50,000 square feet are slated, including in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and Chicago. International cities slated to host the attraction include Guam as well as Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo in Brazil.

All told, 10 more locations will be opened within the next 12 to 24 months, he said. GameWorks hours: Weekdays, 11 a.m. to 2 a.m.; Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 2 a.m.; Sunday, 10 a.m. to midnight. Phone: (305) 740-9091

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