Monday, February 2, 2009

uWink - what happened?

NTN Buzztime has its competitors. Some do well, some not so well.

At least in the opinion of Dan, uWink is a fail.

But it seemed to have potential:

Kat took me out for a meal at uWink, which is Nolan Bushnell’s latest business venture. He’s the man who founded Atari, then launched Pizza Time Theater, a.k.a. Chuck E. Cheese. The guy knows about games and restaurants colliding. I got excited when I heard about his plans for an adult gaming eatery two years ago in a Wired article; Nolan spoke of ordering via digital touch-screen menu, then using that same screen to play games with the people at your table and everybody else in the restaurant. That sounded like heaven....


I thought the original article said that the touch-screens were built into the tables, like the Microsoft Surface. Instead, flatpanel screens are bolted onto tabletops....

Aside from non-interactive fare like some 360-degree digital photos and movie trailers borrowed from IGN, many of the actual games were single-player variants on old standards — a solitaire card game, a straight-up Bejeweled clone, a version of Who Wants To Be a Millionare? cleverly retitled Zillionaire. I thought, cool, we’re going to poll other players in the restaurant for lifelines…but no, it’s really just single-player....

At what I guess are standard intervals, the large screens that adorn the walls (which were showing baby photo slideshows and — of course — football) announced that there would be a group game in two minutes; all you had to do to be invited was exit whatever you were playing by then. It didn’t tell you what the game would be, though. We played a “spot the differences between these two photos” game, and an anagram game (twice). It was cool to see my name up on the board, but the games didn’t happen frequently enough....

There were other problems on his December 30, 2008 visit, all of which are chronicled here.

A few days later, Doug and Cara had a slightly better experience:

After we finished dinner we then played a variety of games on the UWink touch screens. The one that we liked the best was Zillionare, which was a “Who Wants to be a Millionare” rip off. Same concept, only you could go to a Zillion dollars. Some people in our party got involved with the trivia game that the entire restaurant was playing. The group games seemed to work very well.

uWink is actually a chain, with locations in Mountain View, Hollywood (& Highland), and Woodland Hills, California.

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