When Atari revealed the Atari Hotel late last month, I was surprised and skeptical. How could one initiate and then maintain interest in a video-game themed hotel? Specifically, how often would traveling gamers seek out your hotel specifically—what’s the catch? But Atari is certain of a new way to extend their brand.
It seems to be part of a larger effort on Atari’s part to expand their brand beyond video games, leveraging it for such endeavors as Atari Partners or Atari Investors. Through these programs, Atari uses the retro-equity of their brand to support startups and entrepreneurs in tech. A hotel of their own, however, is quite a different step.
As TechRaptor reported, a few of the ways Atari plans to make its hotel unique is by retro-theming it in classic Atari game décor, offering VR and AR experiences and creating a venue for esports. With one location planned in Phoenix and only a handful of cities getting locations beyond that, there won’t necessarily be one where you’re going. So why would you seek out these hotels specifically?
I had a chance to ask Shelly Murphy of GSD Group, one of the collaborators in the venture, several questions about Atari’s plans and expectations with this endeavor.
Retro Brand and Esports Appeal of the Atari Hotel
Atari first recognizes the potential of both esports and immersive entertainment experiences, both being trends in gaming that inspire gamers beyond their TV or computer at home. Large physical spaces are preferred for these—the kind of feature a hotel could offer.
“[R]ight now, there is a lot of excitement around the emerging esports and immersive entertainment industries,” said Murphy. “We thought it would be great to bring these ideas together into a cool hotel concept and be the first to cater to the gaming enthusiast.”
But is it only the gaming enthusiast who should feel welcomed? A key advantage Atari has is that the general public recognizes their name. Like Nintendo, even older generations may know them as a famous video-game maker. Murphy noted that advantage.
“We want to attract gamers of all ages and levels of experiences, esports enthusiasts, tourists, business travelers and locals who want a fun experience. It will appeal to anyone who loves the old nostalgic retro Atari games along with modern gamers.”
It’s clear, though that esports payers and fans will be the key target audience: “Atari is a pioneer in the gaming world and esports is the next generation of [the] gaming world, so it's important we merge the old with the new and become a place that esports enthusiasts and leagues flock to because we will have everything they need, including space to work and collaborate.”
Beyond esports, Murphy said that they envision Atari Hotels as a place for all gamers to “gather and collaborate as the gaming industry grows.” Imagine these as hot spots for indie devs. However, given the possibility to collaborate via satellite, the viability of operating here remains questionable.
Atari Hotel is Still in the Early Stages
The groundbreaking for the Phoenix-based Atari Hotel is scheduled for this spring. Beyond that, it will likely be quite a while before we see multiple Atari Hotels finished. At the moment, details on the interior design and the VR and AR experiences are scant. On possible retro-game aesthetics, Murphy said: “We are in the early planning stages so it’s hard to give exact details but we are working on incorporating the latest technologies to provide our guests the most immersive Atari experience possible.”
The company’s latest video game product, due this March and named the Atari VCS, uses the name and aesthetics of a classic Atari home console—the Atari 2600 was also known as the Atari VCS. Atari’s retro brand is certainly a cornerstone of the company.
Murphy also indicated that Atari plans to build unique features into each location to appeal to the local population.
“[W]e want to make sure there is something unique in every hotel," she said. "Each market will be a bit different depending on the location and scale of the hotel.”
As of now, there are no plans for other venues, like "Atari Restaurants" or setups like that. What is Atari’s key plan over the next 5 or more years? “To become a key destination and attraction for our guests in every city we are located," according ot Murphy.
Time will tell whether this will be the case. Atari’s banking on a burgeoning esports market, the general retro-attraction of their brand, and the appeal of their hotels as centers for games enthusiasts and content creators and collaborators.
Do you think the Atari Hotel can be successful? Would you ever stay in one yourself? Let us know in the comments below!