When you hear the name “Atari”, what is the first thing that pops into your head? Probably the Atari 2600 right? Maybe Roller Coaster Tycoon, or another one of their countless classic games. What is the last thing you think of? If you said “hotels”, you are in for a bit of a surprise.
On Jan. 26 Atari revealed they are partnering with GSD to build a chain of hotels all across the U.S. True North Studio, an Arizona-based real estate developer, is set to develop the hotel. The first one of these hotels will be built in Phoenix, Arizona later in 2020. The current plan is to build more in Chicago, Denver, Las Vegas, Austin, Seattle, San Francisco and San Jose.
The idea is for the hotels to have a gaming theme, and to feature VR and AR technology in some way. While they haven’t confirmed which ones, Atari have said certain hotels will have spaces for esports events.
— atari (@atari) January 26, 2020
While all of this is interesting, it’s hard not to be skeptical. The time when Atari was synonymous with the gaming industry is obviously in the past. They seem aware of where their appeal lies, as the press release notes they are going for a “nostalgic and retro meets modern” vibe. In other words, it’s boomer bait.
Their pitch of drawing in people with “recognizable intellectual property” sounds overly optimistic, considering Atari doesn’t really have enough recognizable characters they can use for promotion or theming. Atari’s status as “iconic” and “a trailblazer in the industry” isn’t something that will ring true for many people anymore, or at least not true enough to justify staying at a gaming hotel over any other lodging. The only thing iconic about them as an organization these days, is their logo; using the same reasoning, NASA could open a chain of pastry shops.
As far as trailblazing goes, Atari haven’t done anything to push gaming forward in years. The most front-and-center thing about the company in recent years have been their Atari VCS controversies, and I am not sure that will be enough to get younger gamers to choose their hotels over Airbnb.
And as for nostalgic boomers, I am not certain there will be enough of them to make the Atari hotels a successful financial venture. Let’s hope Atari did their research. All in all, this dive into the hotel market seems overly optimistic of them, and I am not sure it will turn out the way they hope it will.