Atari Adventure Centers: A Look Inside The Atari Store Of The ’80s
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Atari Adventure Centers
In late 1983, as the affects of the video game crash were taking hold, Atari was putting the final touches on a brilliant retail concept that would present Atari as a lifestyle brand and place Atari in retail locations across the continent.
Called “Atari Adventure,” the stores would have been a retail experience unlike any other. Atari Adventure mixed ideas of arcades, interactive cinemas, amusement park attractions, computer learning, video game and computer stores, and world’s fair pavilions. Atari presented this concept in the video below:
The Atari Store of the ’80s.
Visitors to Atari Adventure stores would enter from the mall into an extraordinary environment where they could discover how Atari technology fit into their everyday lives and get up close with revolutionary new phones, computers, games and gizmos. Atari Adventure expanded on an EPCOT Center theme, making “tomorrow’s technology” accessible to people across the country — “Ever evolving, Atari Adventure will be the premier showcase for the newest innovations in computer learning and video excitement.”
Atari 2600, 5200, and eventually 7800 video game systems would sit alongside Atari computers, software, even Atari telephones in a retail environment crafted to excite! Visitors to Atari Adventure were made active participants, being able to see and play with new Atari prototypes still in the polishing stages and offering opinions to representatives from Atari’s marketing department.
AtariTel smart telephones for everyone.
As Atari Adventure was readying nationwide, Atari, Inc. was on the cusp of producing a line of incredibly forward-thinking Atari telephones that would have sold in Atari Adventure stores alongside computers, software and games. Under the stewardship of Steve Bristow and his genius team, Atari had ventured into the emerging upscale telephone market with a line new “smart” telephones based on wireless intercom technology.
AtariTel incorporated numerous features considered high-end at the time. AtariTel phones could store numbers, place a call on hold, and work as a speakerphone, but most notably they could use wireless intercom technology to turn an ordinary A/C outlet, and every A/C outlet in your home, into a telephone jack. “AtariTel is a new, dramatically capable home network for voice communications, communications management, appliance control, security and environmental control. The AtariTel system incorporates new technology and features not available in other residential telecommunications products.”
Customers would experience these emerging technologies up close and hands-on, in many instances for the very first time. Alan Alda introduces one AtariTel product in the video below:
Reach out and touch tomorrow.
Computer learning courses featuring full-time one-to-one instructors would teach computer literacy to young and old in the most state-of-the-art classroom setting imaginable. Guests could buy time at a computer workstation to write a paper, do homework, print a document or play.
The arcade drew guests in for fun and games, while the retail store sold Atari video games, merchandise, toys and software. “Adventure Time Theater” (pictured below) was an interactive video cinema that put participants in an immersive experience that enabled guests to “ride the video games”.
Cross country adventure.
What’s amazing is that some Atari Adventure locations were actually built, and they weren’t all in major cities. A handful of Adventure Centers opened just prior to Warner Communications divesting itself of Atari’s consumer assets and defunding the project.
Atari, Inc. had lined up locations in at least 44 properties prior to Atari being broken up. An “Atari Video Adventure” located at Marriott’s Great America in Santa Clara, CA had originally opened in 1982 as a somewhat different concept that was not focused on retail sales.
The other Atari Adventure locations included Disneyland in Anaheim CA, a proposed Walt Disney World location in Lake Buena Vista, FL, Northwest Plaza in St. Ann, MO, Crestwood Plaza in St. Louis MO, Caesars Palace in Las Vegas NV, The Riviera in Las Vegas NV, Gwinnett Place Mall in Duluth, GA, Duval Street in Key West, FL, and Northpark Mall in Ridgeland, MS.
The first Atari Adventure Center to open was an 8,000 square foot experience in St. Louis, MO planned as the corporate prototype for a nationwide roll-out which was canceled when Atari, Inc. broke apart in July, 1984.
Justin is a Technology Entrepreneur, Futurist and Raconteur, and an avid Atari aficionado behind the creation of Atari I/O. He is also a contributing writer at The Retroist under the name Atari I/O. You can follow him at his website https://www.atari.io