Open Letter to the Hotel Industry: Time to Get Your Game On

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By Flickr user massdistraction. May be a Game Cube controller, which is only 8 year-old game tech.By Flickr user massdistraction. May be a Game Cube controller, which is only 8 year-old game tech.

By Flickr user massdistraction. May be a Game Cube controller, which is only 8 year-old game tech.

Hello there, Hotel Industry Person, I am one of your customers. In fact, I’m a pretty good customer. I and my family have stayed in some of your hotels for weeks of total time in the last year on various vacations and business-related trips. I have helped you weather the current economic downturn, and have even purchased some premium services that are the real money-makers for you. It would be reasonable, I think, for you to hear me out on one or two things I’ve noticed; things you could be doing better to make me, the customer, happier and more likely to spend more money in your establishments.

You like to cater to family travelers, don’t you? At least, you give off that impression. If that is indeed the case, let me let you in on a little secret: kids need things to do in your hotel rooms.

Okay, hold on there. I know what you’re going to say. You have televisions in your rooms with on-demand movies to watch, and all sorts of cable channels, and…. wait for it… VIDEO GAMES! Kids these days LOVE the video games!

How old are you, Hotel Industry Person? Do you really consider yourself in touch with “the kids these days?” I can’t tell you how many hotels I’ve stayed in over the last decade where the special video game feature to the TV in the room was to pay some exorbitant hourly rate to play (I shudder to say) Nintendo 64 games. N-64!

So let’s just take a little look at what Wikipedia says about the N64, shall we? Oh look, the N64 was released in 1996. My goodness, do you know that was before my kids were even born? Let me put this as clearly as possible: the N64 was an aging game system before I even started being a family traveler, and you’re still trying to sell it as a feature in your rooms. This is what the kids these days call an “epic fail.”

Okay, I will cop to the fact that the picture above that I found online shows a LodgeNet system running Nintendo Game Cube games. Okay, so it’s only an 8 year-old system. Personally I’ve never seen that in a hotel room, but the picture is at least proof it exists.

Of course, many families have portable game systems and portable media systems that they bring with them, and which can be easily hooked up to TVs. They’d love to hook ’em up to the TVs in your hotel rooms, except that in many cases those televisions have all their input ports and switches locked down, and only offer the excitement of LodgeNet‘s most basic offerings (like the overpriced movies and N64 games).

But I can’t be too mean to the ubiquitous LodgeNet. Having checked their site, they seem to be offering all kinds of packages for hotels to use in offering the most up-to-date media capabilities to their customers – including lovely A/V panels for hooking just about any media device possible to an in-room TV. Then why does it seem most of your hotels only offer a system based on technology over a dozen years old?

And let me be clear – this isn’t a situation where I checked into an old hotel still holding onto equipment installed back in the Clinton administration. No, my most recent stay in one of your establishments was in a hotel tower finished in just the last year. The rooms were fitted with new Sony flat-screen LCD televisions. But they were running the exact same setup I’ve seen dozens of times before, including the N64 gaming system and a complete inability to hook up any peripheral devices.

So, what’s the story? I can guess. I can presume that you, person from the Hotel Industry, have made the decision along with a large number of your cohorts to use the cheapest available system, so that you can have something available for your marketing materials, but you also make sure you make your customers pay through the nose for what it offers. And you won’t let them use their own alternatives, for fear of losing a revenue stream. Pretty shoddy, if you ask me (and if you’ve read this far, you are in some way asking).

I’m sure there’s much more to this. I’m sure there are perfectly lovely establishments out there renting 360s and PS3s to their guests, and leaving all the various input ports open on the TVs so that people can bring their Blu-ray players with them if they want to. But if my sampling is indicative, they are few and far between, and you should really get off your collective duffs and do something about it.

</rant>

Okay, with that out of the way, please feel free to include your experiences with hotel in-room entertainment in the comments below. If you’ve found hotels or hotel chains with better setups, please let us know about them – so we can start supporting the good ones as wel!

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