Bushnell's Next Gaming Venture

By Alec Matias, May 30, 2005 8:07am PDT

Nolan Bushnell, widely regarded as one of the founding fathers of videogames, is set to announce his latest business venture. Taking his previous venture of Chuck E. Cheese and tailoring it to an adult audience, Bushnell hopes to launch a nationwide restaurant chain called uWink Media Bistro.

The uWink Media Bistro restaurantchain (strike one: the name) will have screens at every table and bar stool, each piping videogames, media content and interactive menus to a young-adult dining crowd which will, he's convinced, use the shared-gaming experience as a chance to compete, relax and mingle.
This idea has been inside Bushnell's mind for over a decade. In 2000, he started up the company uWink solely to develop the technology that would drive this restaurant. Currently, over 2,500 uWink terminals are in bars and restaurants across the globe. Overall, Bushnell's goal is to revive the social aspect of gaming, taking gamers off the couch and into social settings with friends. The first restaurant will open this fall in Los Angeles.

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27 Threads | 73 Comments

  • Well one has to only look at the rest of the world (besides the United States of America) to see the success and wide patronage of Internet Cafe's to see that there may be a market for this. People are more than willing to pay by the hour for Internet access and to play multiplayer video games. If they were setting these restaurants up in South Korea I'd be foretelling success for this venture.

    The one flaw of Bushnell's plan is opening these restaurants in the U.S.A. Didn't he learn anything from the 1990's and the (largely) abysmal failure of net cafe's in the USA? The fact that he couldn't find venture capital funding for this in the mid to late 90's, when they were throwing money around at anything with tech in its name, should have put his dream to rest. These restaurants better have REALLY good food for us American fat fucks because the draw of multiplayer gaming and Internet access isn't going to be enough.

    However, I do wish him success and the article doesn't say whether all the planned restaurants are going to be in the USA or in different parts of the world. My brother used to be a friend of one of the man's son, he had a kickass house (the old Foldger's coffee magnates mansion in Woodside, Ca.). One entire room was devoted to old school Atari and earlier arcade game boxes and it was cool to walk through and see the evolution of the arcade game all in one room. I remember hearing about his dream of multiplayer game cafe's way back in 1992 or 1993 and it seemed cool then and maybe it would have succeded at the time, but sadly I don't think they will now.


  • I could only imagine what a horror it would be for the wait staff. Trying to turn tables at a gaming bar is fundamentally broken. I'd imagine to compensate for this, for the fact that product isn't being sold every trip, there would be some sort of booth rental, or table rental, an hourly "gaming charge." Chuck E Cheese worked because the only fucking way you are stepping into that Cacophany of Light and Noise was for a hick neighbor's birthday party, so there was no pretense of "resturaunt style service;" it's all a pop banquet, and the game's took the cash, not the waitstaff.

  • People game at home because they're fundamentally lazy. It's why arcades died as soon as home consoles eclipsed them: why go to the trouble of driving somewhere and then paying money when you can just plop your rather large ass into the recliner and game away to your heart's content?

    "The perpetual kid has been thinking about starting a Chuck E. Cheese for adults since the early '90s. But back then, the Internet wasn't sturdy enough to link the games together, and multiplayer videogames for adults didn't exist."

    That's what they need to realize - the Internet has removed the need for people to assemble physically for their gaming, except for things like LAN parties and Halo gatherings, and when you do those, it's a personal gig at someone's apartment, dorm room, etc. It's not something you need to take to an establishment, and it's why those places that offer $5/hour usage of consoles with big-screen TVs keep failing. Not enough business. The fact is that home console technology has advanced far enough that communal gaming is either done remotely across the Internet, or self-arranged with a group of friends. The 18-34 (or whatever it is) age group doesn't need the communality provided for it.

    I'm also curious about what he means by "young-adult." Teens and college kids want to hit up clubs, suck back Red Bull and vodka, and fool around - so I can see Bushnell's idea appealing to everyone *except* that demographic. I wonder if it would work better in Japan, though, based on what little I know of that country...