Can the Atari Hotel be the First eSports Stadium Franchise?

Nostalgia is one heck of a selling-point. Everyone reaches a certain age (and buying power) where the “old times” just sound like a nice escape from the current times. In large doses, it can become a real poison against progress. But in small doses, it can actually be quite pleasant and even work to counteract depression.

This is partly the reason why I think the upcoming line of Atari-branded hotels will be successful.

That’s right! Atari is working with a few entities to launch a lineup of hotels that feature an eSport studio, an Atari gaming playground, meeting and event rooms, co-working spaces, restaurants, bars, a bakery, a movie theatre, and a gym.

They’re breaking ground on the first one in mid to late 2020 in Phoenix, with subsequent installments in Las Vegas, Denver, Austin, Seattle, Chicago, San Jose, and San Francisco.

Before I dive into why I think this is a great idea, I just want to point out that Blade Runner 2049 somehow predicted this exact idea would happen.

The Nostalgia Hotel

First and foremost, Atari is tapping into the power of Instagrammability. The Atari Hotel will be a destination that people will line-up to see and pay a premium to stay in. They’re going to see an early push of PR from content creators that are excited to create content in the new space and Twitch Livestreams will be o’plenty.

In this sense, I liken it to the Henn Na Hotels in Japan. They’re hotels staffed entirely by robots that have managed to stay relevant for years, on the backs of people wanting that “Instagram Moment”. 

Don’t get me wrong, the nostalgia and memorability component will be one of its best selling points to start. And I think this is a great case study in Experiential Marketing. But I don’t think it’s the whole story and I also don’t think it’s their long-term business model.

The real winner here will be their investment into eSports.

If you need a rundown on the immense opportunity of gaming culture, then check out this Inevitable/Human article about its monetary and cultural influence. In short, there’s a large opportunity to build ancillary businesses around this burgeoning economy.

eSport Stadium Franchise

Vegas has recognized this opportunity and is getting its toes wet with the Allied eSports Arena in the Luxor, ultimately with grander visions of becoming the Mecca of eSports Gambling. Likewise, the eSports Arena in Arlington, Texas – among many other eSports stadiums – are popping up in order to profit from the crowds who want to watch gamers game.

With the Atari Hotel, which is going to come equipped with an eSports zone in some capacity, essentially this could be the first franchisable eSports arena.

Atari already has great brand recognition in the gaming community. Furthermore, it’s a brand with a lot of longevity, having died and rose from the ashes many times. And seeing as how they’re coupling the stadium with a hotel, it has a chance at greater sustainability in their business model.

Will the Atari stadiums be on the same playing field as the Luxor in Vegas?

No. But that’s not their lane. You know how many basketball gyms exist that aren’t the Madison Square Garden? Tens of thousands. And many of those are profitable, year-round sports complexes. The same will exist in eSports. And Atari is in a position to provide that.

The hotel component is also genius because it adds a Disney World layer to this. Once you’re in Disney World, it’s hard to spend a dollar that isn’t going to Disney. It’s an enclosed ecosystem. The Atari Hotel has all of the gaming experiences, food, and relaxation that a kid or adult could desire. You even get to bring the game that you’re playing in the lobby right back up to your room.

So is it a Disney World for adults? A getaway for gamers? Or a breath of fresh air for frequent business travelers?

I think it’s all of these.

Take a company, for example, like 1Huddle who is creating video games that make it quicker and more enjoyable to onboard new hires. They have a theory that video games (once thought of as a distraction) can actually be used to engage people in the workplace in a variety of ways.

A partnership between 1Huddle and the Atari Hotel would make for a great company-wide retreat.

Overall, the Atari Hotel will be able to bypass the regular economics of a hotel. Normally, hotels prescribe to the tough rule of “Heads in Beds”. It’s a brutal game where you have to appeal to both vacationers and the frequent business traveler.

Atari, though, can leverage their eSports offering to hold events, tournaments, seminars, you name it. All while selling a 3-night getaway to the nostalgic, inner-child who used to be obsessed with Pac-Man.

Whether or not Atari (and GSD Group) have grand visions of countrywide eSports event dominance remains to be seen. I, for one, think that they’re the right brand to carry this vision through.