Of the more than 600 Chuck E. Cheese locations worldwide, fewer than 50 restaurants still have the quarter-century-old “Studio C” layout of animatronics that uses these floppy disks. Other restaurants have a version of the show that uses modern technology, while some have no animatronics at all. (Ars Technica has a story about Chuck E. Cheese’s floppy disk usage with a more detailed overview of all paleotech.)
Ultimately, Chuck E. Cheese plans to phase out animatronics altogether and focus on new screen-based entertainment (plus an even more retro approach: a living human in a mascot costume). The revision was first announced in 2017but the renovation of the restaurant is an ongoing process and it may take a year or two for the last animatronics to be done away with.
Tom Persky is the owner of floppydisk.com, the largest floppy disk supplier still standing. His company has a few arms: you can buy blank discs for it or send in your old floppy disks to transfer to more modern storage media. Persky will also program the discs for bulk order customers, and he confirmed to BuzzFeed News that Chuck E. Cheese had indeed been a longtime customer of his. He said he is sad that he will lose the company as a customer.
As for why the restaurant still uses floppy disks, Persky told BuzzFeed News that the floppy technology, while outdated, is actually extremely reliable. “If you’re looking for something really stable, really non-hackable — it’s not internet-based, it’s not network-based,” Persky said. “It’s quite elegant for what it does.”
Chuck E. Cheese press representatives confirmed the chain’s use of floppy disks with BuzzFeed News. However, they were very coy about what other information they were willing to share, and a few days later they told us that the company would not participate in this story on the record.
However, a senior Chuck E. Cheese employee, who wished to remain anonymous because he was not authorized to speak on behalf of the company, echoed Persky’s sentiments.
“The floppies work surprisingly well. The animatronic, lighting and show sync data is all on the floppy disks,” the contributor told BuzzFeed News. “I’ve seen some of the newer Studio C Chuck E.s run on a flash drive and SD card combination. But usually newer setups cause problems with things, and it’s easier to just keep the old things running.”
Even after Chuck E. Cheese phases out floppy disks, they will likely remain in use for some time in other fields, such as medical devices. While the thought of this might make you nervous, Persky insisted it’s a good thing. ‘Why don’t you use USB? Well, let’s say your life depends on it,’ he said. “If you have a choice between a USB drive or a floppy disk, choose the floppy disk every time.
“It’s one thing if your animatronic bear doesn’t laugh on command,” he continued. “It’s another if your medical device fails.”