New Atari Hotel for Phoenix ups competition for guests in evolving industry

Phoenix is the site for a new hotel concept centered around an immersive video game experience, another sign that the industry as a whole is stepping up its game to compete in the changing world of hospitality.

Atari Hotels announced it will offer “fully immersive experiences” for every age and gaming ability centered around guests favorite games. Think Asteroids, Centipede, Missile Command, Pong, RollerCoaster, and Tycoon. 

First hotel could come to downtown Phoenix  

A first for the industry, the hotel will cater to business travelers and families with the latest technology in virtual and augmented reality, company executives said. Select hotels will also feature studios for e-sports events.

At least eight Atari Hotels are planned, with the first breaking ground later this year in Phoenix. Hotel officials reportedly are looking for a site near Central and Roosevelt streets downtown. 

Other hotels are planned for Austin, Chicago, Denver, Las Vegas, San Francisco, San Jose, Calif., and Seattle.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles producer helping lead project 

Phoenix-based real estate developer True North Studio and GSD Group, an innovation and strategy agency founded by Shelly Murphy and partner Napoleon Smith III, struck a deal with Atari to acquire the rights to build the hotels. Smith produced the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles film franchise reboot. 

“When creating this brand-new hotel concept, we knew that Atari would be the perfect way to give guests the ‘nostalgic and retro meets modern’ look and feel we were going for. Let’s face it, how cool will it be to stay inside an Atari?” Smith said. 

True North Studio and GSD are working with Steve Wozniak’s Woz Innovation Foundation to develop the hotel. 

Tapping into video game audience

More than 2.5 billion gamers across the world spent more than $152.1 billion on games in 2019,  an increase of 9.6 percent year on year, company officials said.

One of the most distinctive trends in gaming is gamers gravitating toward recognizable intellectual property, Atari CEO Fred Chesnais said. 

“Atari is an iconic global brand that resonates with people of all ages, countries, cultures and ethnic backgrounds and we cannot wait for our fans and their families to enjoy this new hotel concept,” Chesnais said. 

Hotels getting creative as industry evolves 

With non-traditional vacation rentals like Airbnb, GlouchSurfing, and luxury treehouses and barns taking a bigger share of the market, Atari and other hotel groups are upping their game to compete.   

Among the wave of new immersive- and themed-hotels in recent years:

Meow Wolf, an arts and entertainment group out of Sante Fe, is planning its first immersive arts and entertainment hotel for downtown Phoenix in Roosevelt Row. The facility will house a 75,000 square-foot exhibition area and 10,000 square-foot music and performance venue. 

About 400 rooms will be designed by local artists. Guests can pick from a menu of overnight experiences: faux-glamping, capsule (bed-sized) rooms, communal hostel environments, lodging inside the art exhibition itself and “absurd luxury suites.” 

21c Museum Hotels, this Louisville-based concept combines a free contemporary art museum with boutique hotel in historic buildings. The Louisville, Kentucky-based hotel and restaurant group, was founded by art collectors and preservationists Laura Lee Brown and Steve Wilson who want to bring contemporary art to the masses. There are currently nine hotels including the newest one opening Feb. 4 in the heart of downtown Chicago. 

Marriot takes on Airbnb

In other recent developments, Marriott International announced last year it is starting a new home-rental business to go head-to-head with Airbnb and other home-sharing companies. It is the first major hotel company to create a home-rental platform for the U.S., following its pilot program in Europe.

The company would allow guests using the platform to earn and redeem loyalty points as they do with other brands Marriott owns, including Sheraton, W hotels and Ritz-Carlton.

‍Airbnb takes U-turn, acquiring and building hotels   

Airbnb, in turn, has been expanding into the traditional hotel arena. It announced it is partnering with New York City developer, RXR, to build its first hotel. It also has been opening branded apartment buildings and condo-hotel towers in cities like Austin, Miami, and Nashville. In Miami, the company is partnering with a developer to open a 48-story, Airbnb-branded tower called Natiivo that will offer 412 condos and 192 hotel rooms. It is scheduled to open in the spring of 2022.

Victoria Harker

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