Games centres move for Virgin

Virgin Entertainment Centres is tapping into the growth of computer games by developing a bar/café format for an “adult audience, centred on game play”. The venture will launch in Manchester in 2000.

Virgin Entertainment Centres is tapping into the growth of computer games by developing a bar/café format for an “adult audience, centred on game play”. The venture will launch in Manchester in 2000.

A Virgin Entertainment Centres spokeswoman says the project is still in the early stages of development and a design group has yet to be appointed. However, she confirms the company will look to appoint a consultancy “at some point, to create a concept that will involve game play elements”. She will give no further details.

A recruitment ad in The Guardian gives some clues to the possible nature of the operation. “Virgin Entertainment Centres is developing an exciting new concept for an adult audience centred on game play. It needs to recruit a games play buyer and a food and beverage buyer…” it reads.

Virgin Entertainment Centres is part of the Virgin Entertainment Group and can draw on the resources of sister companies, including Virgin Cinemas and Virgin Megastores, both in the UK and abroad.

Staff are being sought with, “experience in the hi-tech/games play industry or… a food and beverage product role in the restaurant, brewery, hotel or catering industry”, suggesting the resulting venue could incorporate a broad range of leisure pursuits.

The planned concept appears broadly similar to The Playing Fields in London’s Whitfield Street, which mixes a licensed bar and café with a network of games-packed computers (DW 13 March 1998). Co-founder Charles Allen says the operation was created to tap into the increasing demand for “social computer gaming”. Red Design worked up the concept, which primarily targets 20-35-year-old professionals.

“In the last two to three years the multiplaying computer game market has become increasingly popular. It used to be confined to the Internet, through specialist companies, but now everybody is doing it. We thought it would be good to put it in a social environment,” says Allen. The company is looking to evolve the concept with a view to rolling it out further.

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