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Published: Thursday, 3/22/2001

Coaster simulator the next best thing

BY JON CHAVEZ
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER

Ronbotics Corp., a Manassas, Va., firm founded by a pioneer of the home-video game industry, has developed an arcade ride that simulates a twisting, turning trip on six of Cedar Point's coasters.

The $20,000 CoasteRider X-Press, which features a rock `n roll sound track by rock star Peter Frampton, gives up to two customers a virtual voyage on either the Magnum XL-200, Gemini, Blue Streak, Mantis, Mean Streak, or Iron Dragon coasters.

With a low price tag by arcade standards, the machine is selling faster than Ronbotics can turn them out and has given Cedar Point an unexpected marketing boost in arcades in the United States and Europe, said an official of the Sandusky amusement park.

``We have gotten calls from all over from people who have seen the simulator,'' said Janet Witherow, a Cedar Point spokesman.

Arcade owners such as Bill Chrysan, of Putt-Putt Golf 'n Games in Ypsilanti, Mich., like the ride too not only for the Cedar Point name, which his patrons recognize, but for the ride's unusual aspects that set it apart from most arcade games. He charges $1.50 a ride and said it has been very popular.

``You feel like you're riding on a real roller coaster” he said. “I've had people get off of it and feel queasy. It's very authentic and something you can't play at home on Nintendo.''

The only drawback, he added, is the game was developed before Cedar Point opened its record-breaking Millennium Force roller coaster in 2000.

None of the 220 machines is in arcades near Toledo, however.

Cedar Point has no connection to Ronbotics, which was founded in 1996 by Ron Borta - developer of Pac-Man and other games for Atari, Colecovision, and several more home-video game systems during the 1980s.

Leslie Davis, Ronbotics president and chief operating officer, said the firm picked Cedar Point for its arcade ride based on the park's reputation for coaster excellence.

``Cedar Point's reputation is worldwide, and we wanted to work with coasters that people knew,” she said.

The company sent a video crew to film front-seat views of riding the six coasters about two years ago. Ronbotics said it took three years to develop the CoasteRider, which debuted in late 1999.

Ronbotics has a backlog of orders for the machines, which it makes in a new 85,000 square foot plant. Half of its machines in use are in the United States, the rest are in Europe, Ms. Davis said.



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