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Prepared visitor one: Atari-themed lodge deal punctuates the gaming pioneer’s turnaround

Ready guest one: Atari-themed hotel deal punctuates the gaming pioneer’s turnaround


Atari has put its title on lots of merchandise past online game programs through the years, however its subsequent licensing deal may, actually, be its greatest.

The corporate that arguably began the house online game trade has signed a partnership that may end in eight or extra Atari-themed inns across the U.S., the primary of which breaks floor in Phoenix, Ariz. later this yr, CEO Fred Chesnais tells Fortune.

Deliberate options for the inns vary from arcade bars to wonderful eating places, with a smattering of augmented and digital actuality tech in between. Choose areas may also function e-sports studios, amenities that may have the ability to each host and broadcast stay occasions to followers through the Web.

“It’s one thing I’ve at all times wished to do,” says Chesnais. “I at all times wished to make an amusement park, and inns may very well be step one.”

The Paris-based online game firm is partnering with Arizona-based GSD Group and True North Studio on the deal. “We envision it to be the following evolution within the gaming and e-sports world,” says Shelly Murphy, GSD Group’s founder. “From the second you hit the door you’ve got an immersive leisure expertise.”

The shocking transfer is a part of an ongoing effort to revitalize the Atari model title. Based by Nolan Bushnell and Ted Dabney in 1972, the corporate has been purchased and offered quite a few occasions by the years, at occasions balancing on the precipice of changing into nothing greater than nostalgia. In 2013, the corporate filed for Chapter 11 chapter safety, and was $37.7 million in debt. Chesnais, an Atari worker from 2001 to 2007, purchased the corporate for a mere 400 euro, or $443 in 2013.

Based on Chesnais, he spent his 4 years again at Atari engaged on the corporate’s survival, swapping debt for fairness, and licensing its title out to all the things from on line casino merchandise (starting from slot machines to scratch video games in Europe and Africa) to blockchain to speaker hats.

He additionally modified the organizational construction of the corporate, retaining what he calls the core of Atari, the model and its mental properties, however outsourcing growth and distribution of merchandise to 3rd events, serving to Atari to function with a smaller workers. At its top, Atari had 3,000 staff. It now consists of simply 20 individuals, relying as an alternative on a roster of contractors and strategic companions that features AMD, Kingston, Arcade 1 Up, and others.

The technique has labored. Based on Chesnais, Atari is formally within the black, and in its most up-to-date earnings launch, it reported a gross revenue of $10.four million.

Offers like Atari’s lodge association show how profitable licensing out its nostalgic model has been. As a part of the deal, the corporate will obtain an up-front fee of $600,000 in addition to 5% of the income from the inns, that are deliberate for Austin, Texas; Chicago; Denver; Las Vegas; San Francisco; San Jose, Calif; and Seattle.

Focused at each enterprise vacationers and households, the Atari inns might haven’t see vital occupancy challenges. “That is for everyone… to come back and expertise one thing that’s classic and retro and nostalgic,” Murphy says. “It’s virtually Atari meets Disney meets e-sports meets augmented actuality/digital actuality.”

Although no foundations have been poured but, it’s clearly a subsequent step in direction of rebuilding Atari’s picture, which Chesnais says he has been targeted on over the previous two years. Particularly, Atari has been bulking up its gaming credentials, with an enormous deal with Curler Coaster Tycoon, a legacy title that has discovered new life on cell gadgets, PCs, and the Nintendo Swap. The corporate has additionally mined different traditional video games, resembling Asteroids and Missile Command, in each downloadable collections for recreation consoles and standalone plug-and-play gadgets.

The Atari VCS is scheduled to launch this spring.
Courtesy of Atari

As Atari seems to be to its future, the corporate hopes to mix the nostalgic with the superior within the Atari VCS, in a brand new recreation console it’s scheduled to launch this spring. A contemporary recreation machine that’s a fusion of PC and conventional console, the VCS has already racked up 10,000 pre-orders, at costs starting from $249 to $389. The system outputs video in 4K decision, runs the traditional Atari video games (in fact) and lets customers import libraries from the Steam and Epic Video games digital distribution providers to play on televisions. (One VCS machine at CES had Fortnite up and working.) It may also be used to stream content material through Netflix and different providers.

“We’re a bit bit PC; we’re a bit bit recreation system; we’re a bit bit stream field,” says Michael Arzi, chief working officer of Atari Linked Units.

The VCS is a chance for Atari, particularly with each Sony and Microsoft bringing new recreation consoles to market this fall that would dampen its gross sales. Chesnais says that’s not an enormous concern, although, since despite the fact that they’re making a recreation system, they’re not chasing the identical buyer.

“Our core market shouldn’t be the gamer who’s going to purchase the PlayStation or the Microsoft machines,” he says. “We’re in search of somebody who needs to have an informal expertise in the lounge on the massive display screen; somebody who needs to do greater than play video games; somebody who needs to have entry to the web and browse Amazon with out having… a clunky expertise.”

That casts a large web, however it additionally might lack ample focus. If the VCS fails to catch on with customers, although, it received’t essentially be deadly for the corporate, Chesnais says. “It could be a disappointment if it didn’t work, however it’s not life threatening,” he says. The corporate’s lean staffing makes it simpler to maneuver on to Atari’s subsequent large factor.

And what which may be is anybody’s guess—however Chesnais, impressed by his firm’s resurgence, has no scarcity of concepts. “Now’s the time to work on some Atari recreation reveals,” he says. “Now’s the time to work on some function movies based mostly on our properties.”

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