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Gaming History You Should Know – The History of DisneyQuest June 20, 2020

Posted by Maniac in Gaming History You Should Know, Uncategorized.

It’s Sunday and we’re back with another Gaming History You Should Know, where we highlight some of the best independently produced gaming documentaries from across the Internet. Today, we’re going to tell a story about a well-themed arcade that just didn’t work out.

Children of the 80s probably remember the earlier days of Atari and Namco machines, and would flock to arcades to play games like PAC-MAN and Missile Command. Then, the crash of ‘82 happened and arcades began to evaporate. It would take a decade for a new generation of games to bring the arcade back. When I was a child in the early 90s, the arcades were packed with cutting edge titles like Mortal Kombat and Lethal Enforcers. By the end of the 90s, improved technology gave us more immersive games like Jurassic Park, Cruisin’ USA and Area 51. With the success of games like that, lots of arcades began to take chances on not only new games or new technlogies, but new ways to design their arcades to bring in newer players. Virtual Reality (VR) was offered as an option in some venues, but it was costly and the technology wasn’t there to provide the fast-paced realistic games that the platform demanded. Most VR players who tried the technology at the time weren’t happy with it.

In the early 2000s, Disney looked at the success of arcades and decided the time was right to throw the weight of their company behind a new venture. Disney has always been known as one of the most technology advanced companies in the world, with their films, television and theme parks wowing audiences since way before I was born. Disney has always been the best at providing a well-themed immersive experience to their customers, and that was exactly what was needed at the turn of the millennium.

As VR arcades started taking off, Disney decided to launch their own Disney-Branded VR arcade franchise, DisneyQuest. Two DisneyQuests were built at launch, with one in Chicago, Illinois and the other at Disney World in Orlando, Florida. For $36 US at entry, guests could come in and play all of the games on display, including tons of exclusive attractions you couldn’t play anywhere else. If successful, the plan was to open more venues all across North America.

So did DisneyQuest work? Sadly no. The third DisneyQuest venue in Philadelphia, PA was cancelled mid-construction. Chicago’s venue closed first after just a few brief years, but with the heavy tourist traffic of Walt Disney World, DisneyQuest Orlando was successful enough on its own to limp along without much further investment for nearly two decades before it finally shuttered.

So if DisneyQuest had the financial backing and access to the same high-end technology as used by one of the most successful companies in the world, why did it fail? Defunctland is an online documentary series created and hosted by a man who calls himself Kevin Perjurer. It focuses on the history of theme park rides and attractions that are no longer in operation. It also covers attractions that got far along in preproduction but were never built. It’s well researched and edited, with Kevin’s narration keeping you on the edge of your seat throughout the video. A while ago, Kevin took a look at the DisneyQuest franchise, went into its history and its demise. If you wanted to see what you could’ve done at this place in its heyday, give this a watch.

I must admit I have personally visited the DisneyQuest in Orlando, Florida but only once during a family vacation. The most impressive thing I remember from it was their Cyber Space Mountain simulator, which I challenged my cousin to ride with me. We both ended up having a great time on that trip, but seven years later when I visited the park again, I remember feeling that there was no need to check DisneyQuest out again. Perhaps that is why the venue failed, there was no incentive for repeat customers, something an arcade desperately needs to survive. Recently, arcades are seeing a resurgence with the success of venues like Dave and Busters and I have happily spent many free nights there for a happy hour special and some games. Everybody gets hungry and thirsty, and D&B’s decision to offer decent food with a constantly improving selection of new arcade games (in my opinion) succeeded where DisneyQuest failed.

If you’d like to check out more Defunctland, check out their YouTube Channel.


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