Atari, the brand known for pioneering video games like Pong, Space Invaders and RollerCoaster Tycoon, is taking its business in a new direction: hotels.
In a move that underlines the popularity of esports, the demands of its growing audience and how video games are escaping the bounds of their consoles, Atari announced on Monday that it would begin construction on its first-ever video game themed hotel.
The company, which was created in 1972, promises a lodging experience that combines a one-of-a-kind video game-themed destination with immersive virtual and augmented reality experiences, according to its statement.
The idea came about when GSD Group, a company that works with so-called legacy brands, and Napoleon Smith III, an executive producer of the recent "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" films, began thinking about Atari last fall and eventually presented the company with the idea for a hotel, Shelly Murphy, the founder of GSD Group said.
Murphy said the plan was to create an "ecosystem" in which players could "eat, sleep and play," though the size of the hotels would vary depending on the market and region.
Some hotel rooms will have a retro video game theme while others may have a futuristic design, she said, adding, "Our hope is that you come in and never want to leave because there's a lot of interaction."
Construction of the first hotel, in Phoenix, will begin this fall and is expected to be completed in 18 to 24 months, she said.
Additional hotels are planned for Las Vegas; Denver; Chicago; Austin, Texas; Seattle; San Francisco; and San Jose, California, the statement said. Some locations will have state-of-the-art venues and studios to accommodate esports events.
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Both GSD Group and Smith will lead the development and design of the hotels, the statement said. Murphy said she hoped the hotels would attract both those seeking nostalgia and those competing in the esports world.
According to the 2019 Global Games Market Report, by the esports analytics firm Newzoo, there are, broadly, about 2.5 billion gamers — meaning anyone who plays on a PC, console or mobile device — across the world. The firm estimated that they would spend $240 billion on games in 2019, a 9.6% increase from the previous year. The report projected that the global games market would grow by billions of dollars over the next few years, rising to nearly $315 billion by 2022.
Atari's move into hospitality follows a trend to build larger venues to accommodate esports' growing audiences. In 2018, the Esports Stadium Arlington opened the largest dedicated esports facility in North America, a 100,000-square-foot space in Texas with a broadcast studio and an 85-foot-long LED wall. Construction is also underway for a $80 million, 3,500-seat esports arena in Philadelphia, and venues like the Barclays Center in Brooklyn have sold tens of thousands of tickets for esports competitions held there.
It's evident these spaces are in demand. Last July, more than 19,000 people attended the three-day Fortnite World Cup at USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Queens, according to the video game's maker, Epic Games. Prize values have mounted with the events' popularity: Kyle Giersdorf, who plays as "Bugha," won the event and a $5 million prize.
Harrison Chang, who plays as "Psalm" and placed second in the competition, said the idea of an Atari hotel was "pretty cool" and he's glad that the brand is "trying to take esports to a more mainstream space."
Beyond large-scale gaming events, the popularity of immersive video game settings is also on the rise. This summer, a life-size Super Nintendo World will open at Universal Studios Japan, and there are plans to bring the concept to the United States.
By Derrick Bryson Taylor
The New York Times