Retro lodging: Atari gaming hotels coming to eight U.S. cities, including Seattle and San Francisco

(Atari Rendering)

Atari — yes, that Atari — is getting into the hotel business.

The video game pioneer is putting its name on eight new hotels across the U.S., including one in Seattle. The hotels will feature esports studios where pros could compete and “Atari gaming playgrounds,” that might cater to more casual gamers.

Construction will begin on the first hotel in Phoenix later this year. Locations in Seattle, San Francisco, San Jose, Austin, Chicago, Denver and Las Vegas will follow.

Atari is working with GSD Group — a brand strategy company with ties to Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak’s Woz Innovation Foundation — and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie producer Napoleon Smith III on the project. Phoenix real estate company True North Studio will develop the first location.

“Together we’ll build a space that will be much more than just a place to stay,” Atari CEO Fred Chesnais said in a statement. “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.”

The terms of the deal were not disclosed in the announcement, but reports indicate that Atari is licensing its name to the projects. Engadget reported Atari will receive a $600,000 advance and 5 percent of the hotels’ revenue.

Atari has been around for close to 50 years, and it is known for making some of the first home gaming systems as well as iconic titles such as Asteroids and Pong. The company has changed hands several times over the years, but it continues to make games, and it is working on a blockchain technology platform that will include its own cryptocurrency.

Seattle makes sense for a gaming hotel because of its high profile in the industry. The region is home to Microsoft and its Xbox division, Nintendo’s North American headquarters, major studios like Halo-maker Bungie, and gaming giants from around the globe have opened up offices in the area.

Seattle is also a hotspot for esports, hosting “The International” competition for years. However, in 2018 the event switched to Vancouver, B.C. because its Seattle home — Key Arena — is in the midst of a massive renovation project.

The announcement didn’t give details about the location or timeline for the Seattle hotel to open. We’ve reached out to GSD for more information, and we will update this post if we hear back.

The city is in the midst of a hotel boom, with thousands of new rooms coming online in recent years. It’s likely that Atari and its partners will want to get in on the ground floor of a project to shape its development.

The only hotel project in the downtown area coming up for a design review, one of the first approvals in Seattle’s process, is at 130 Fifth Ave. N., just a few blocks from the Space Needle. Design review documents don’t mention Atari or gaming in descriptions of the plan.

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