Atari plans video game-themed hotel opening in Austin

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Photo Credit: Rocky Higine | Daily Texan Staff

Atari, an arcade game and home video game console company, announced it will begin building video game-themed hotels in eight United States cities, including Austin, according to an Atari press release this week.

Napoleon Smith III, producer of the film franchise “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,” the GSD Group and real estate developer True North Studio will contribute to the hotel development and design, according to Atari’s official website. 

David Cohen, arts and entertainment technologies assistant professor of practice, said he will be visiting the hotel to surround himself with his true passion: video games. Cohen said he remembers going to his friend’s house to play the Atari 2600 home video game console when Atari first released it in the 1970s.

“I would love to go to a hotel where everywhere I look and everything I experience is something that I love,” Cohen said. “This is a chance for me to physically immerse myself in video games and be surrounded by everything that I love.” 

The hotels will include typical amenities such as a gym, event rooms, bars, restaurants and a bakery, according to the press release. However, Atari will be placing its own twist on hotels by including an esports studio, a gaming playground and a movie theater. 

“I think (Atari) is going to become a destination in and of itself, because how many hotels can you say have a gaming playground or an esports facility built in,” advertising graduate student Laura Sliker said. “It’s just another really distinctive thing that (Austin is) going to be able to brag on having.”

Sliker is a part of the Texas Immersive program at UT, which teaches students how to design their own immersive technology experiences. Sliker said she wants to visit Atari’s hotels to learn about how they will design immersive technology experiences for their customers. 

“Obviously, gamers are going to be a primary market, but I also think this is going to be fun for people who grew up in the early ages of Atari,” Sliker said. “This is going to be an opportunity for them to get in touch with their inner child.”

Cohen said Austin is a great city for a video game-themed hotel because it is a top city for video game development. He said he expects more video game-themed businesses to open in the next few years because the industry is focusing on providing immersive experiences for players. 

“We’re now going to be seeing things like esports bars,” Cohen said. “We’re going to start seeing these kinds of things popping up because games are now something we all want to have a shared experience with.”

Austin Espinoza, president of Longhorn Gaming, said he is excited Atari is reintroducing itself in a modern way to connect with younger audiences.

“I think the hotel is incredibly valuable,” Asian studies senior Espinoza said. “There are not enough places that are welcoming to your stereotypical video game player or just people that play casually.”

Espinoza said Austin has the perfect unique and “weird” culture for a video game-themed hotel.

“I am excited to see more video game-oriented businesses,” Espinoza said. “They’ll get more people talking about the game industry and esports and how it’s a lot bigger and (more) complex than people might think.”