Few people remember that Nolan Bushnell, Atari founder and industry icon, came up with the idea of a pizza chain with a ball pit and animatronic anthropomorphic band when he needed to sell more young kids on Atari games. A bit of a leap in business logic, to be sure, but nearly 35 years after Chuck E. Cheese’s inception, it’s hard not to see the success. The Registry of Historic Gaming Locations added the restaurant chain’s first location, the no longer standing San Jose establishment set up in 1977, to its list of historic gaming sites, which also includes Mother’s Pinball, a famed arcade testing facility in Mount Prospect, IL.
Bushnell’s original vision, while historic, wasn’t quite the success the chain’s current incarnation is, as changing tides in the games industry led to the Chuck E. Cheese Pizza Time Theater chain to declare bankruptcy in 1979 and be acquired by restaurant-cum-arcade competitor Showbiz Pizza Time. The resulting franchises were consolidated into the current incarnation known only as Chuck E. Cheese, and its integration of standing arcade cabinets in every restaurant continues to introduce new generations to video games.
Got any warm, gooey Chuck E. Cheese memories you want to share, EGs? What other gaming landmarks should be recognized by the Registry of Historic Gaming Locations? Post your thoughts below!