Choosing a hotel used to be relatively simple; price, location and a quality ranking factored into a simple calculus. Then along came boutique hotels with luxury features and carefully chosen amenities which made things more complex. Now things like the quality of the bed, the size and sophistication of the fitness center, spa services, in-room WiFi and broadband all become criteria in an ever growing decision tree.
The Westin brand of Starwood Hotels (NYSE:HOT) is betting a new component will set them apart: Nintendo's (OTCPK:NTDOY) Wii. Thursday, the hotel chain and Nintendo jointly announced that they will feature the Wii game console in at least ten U.S. Westin Hotels.
Talks and rumors of the deal had been circulating since March.
The exact configuration of the Wiis offered will differ from the models currently sold at retail. Nintendo specifically adapted the console to meet Westin’s needs. The new, specialized Wiis will come preloaded with a selection of games and can be updated automatically. No game discs will be required to play either The hotel properties will also have the ability to manage which games are offered.
Technical details of the modifications made to create the new “Hotel Configuration” haven’t been provided. The likelihood is, to support onboard games and other described features, the custom Wiis were upgraded with a hard drive and additional networking functionality. Given one of the few consistent criticisms of the Wii has been its lack of an onboard hard drive, such modifications are particularly noteworthy. Not only do they show a willingness on Nintendo’s part to evolve the platform, they also hint at a prospect of Nintendo eventually offering an expanded, hard drive bearing version for consumers too.
Wii Sports, Big Brain Academy and Wii Play will be among the first preloaded software titles offered. In addition, the participating hotels will also be equipped with Nintendo’s Wii Fit balance board controller when it ships on May 19th. The fitness aspects of the platform will feature in Westin’s WestinWORKOUT exercise and fitness services.
For Nintendo, the partnership represents a clever and unique new gateway to reaching potential new mainstream customers. “Delivering an active entertainment experience is what the Wii is all about," Cammie Dunaway, Nintendo America’s EVP of Sales and Marketing said. It’s “Ideal for business travelers and families who want to stay energized while on the road.”
The Wiis debuted Thursday at Westin’s Times Square, NYC and Bellevue, Washington properties. The pilot program will expand to 8 other hotels throughout May. These properties will include: The Westin Hilton Head; the Westin Diplomat, LA; the St. Francis, San Francisco; along with properties in Toronto, Kansas City, St Louis, Houston and Savannah. If positively received by guests, a wider roll out will then follow.