For months, Shelly Murphy, CEO of GSD Group, and her business partner and producer of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Napoleon Smith III, worked quietly on bringing the Atari Hotels concept to life. So, in January, when their PR firm sent out the first press release about the hotel, she wasn’t sure what kind of response it would provoke.
It was clear immediately that this wasn’t the kind of response a simple press release normally gets. This was going to be a big deal.
“The first hour that the press release went out, our website was up, but it crashed because we had 20,000 hits in less than an hour,” Murphy said. “We knew that we had a really amazing opportunity and idea and we knew that the market was there for something like this. But it’s been received so well from everywhere. We’ve had inquiries internationally, all over the world, and the press that’s come in embracing it with excitement has been really exciting.”
Phoenix-based GSD Group is leading the design and development of the hotel, which will break ground sometime in 2020 at a site along Central Avenue in Roosevelt Row. After the Phoenix location, seven more hotels are planned for Austin, Chicago, Denver, Las Vegas, San Francisco, San Jose and Seattle.
True North Studio, a Phoenix-based real estate developer — currently working alongside GSD Group with Steve Wozniak’s Woz Innovation Foundation — will develop the first Atari-branded hotel.
“We are thrilled to partner with GSD Group and True North Studio to build the first-ever Atari branded hotels across the United States. Together we’ll build a space that will be much more than just a place to stay,” said Fred Chesnais, CEO of Atari, in the initial press release. “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.”
More than 2.5 billion gamers across the world spent more than $152.1 billion on games in 2019 alone; an increase of 9.6 percent year on year. One of the most distinctive trends in gaming is gamers gravitating toward recognizable intellectual property. Atari Hotels will offer consumers exactly that.
“With everything that’s happening and trending with E-sports right now, which we believe will be a big audience for the hotel, and Phoenix is closely adjacent to Los Angeles and San Francisco and Las Vegas; I think it’s really a win/win for Phoenix,” Murphy said. “One of the things that we feel is going to be really unique, is we’re going to have co-working space that will be designed for gamers. So you can come from all over the world, stay in the hotel, but also have the opportunity to develop that ecosystem or networking of like-minded individuals who are coding games and developing and working together.”
Murphy said the Atari Hotel will have something for everyone, even those old-timers who grew up spending hours with their Atari joystick fighting off Asteroids or Space Invaders.
“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?” said Napoleon Smith III.
“Space Invaders is probably one of the top requests right now,” Murphy added. “That’s what people are looking for in terms of wanting to be engaged with just really fun, nostalgic entertainment. There’s going to be a lot of fun and they are being designed for all age groups and all demographics. So if you’re that nostalgic person that remembers Atari from way back in your youth and you want to come into the arcade bar and have a cocktail and play Space Invaders or Centipede and just enjoy that time, you can. Or, if you’re a competitive E-sports player, you’ll be able to come and be in a state of the art studio and venue that supports those tournaments and competitions.”
A very crucial aspect of the Atari Hotel concept is embracing technology and bringing it to the users. Plans are for gaming spaces for virtual reality or augmented reality games.
“We want to bring to the public a piece of everything that is happening in experiential entertainment right now with the immersive experiences, with artificial reality and augmented reality,” Murphy said. “So to have that throughout the hotel, those types of experiences, I think is going to be really unique and fun.”
Besides the retro and modern gaming venues and experiences, the hotel will have all of the other bells and whistles of the modern hotel, with restaurants, meeting rooms, event rooms, and an exercise gym. Murphy said that GSD Group is in the planning and design phase for different room concepts.
“There will hopefully be a room for all levels,” Murphy said. “If you just want a room, you can walk in and it can be very retro or vintage, but high tech. Or, you might walk into a room that is all Space Invaders or very futuristic. And we’ll have premier suites that are designed so that if you wanted to host your child’s birthday slumber party there, you would have a suite that would be prepared for that with big screens and top of the line gaming equipment so those kids can have fun.”