Hotel 626, the Horror Game that Doritos Once Ran: A Modern Recap
Believe it or not, back in 2008, the snack giant Frito-Lay released a rather strange but fascinating game to promote its tortilla chip brand, Doritos. This game was called “Hotel 626.” It was an advertising initiative for the brand and also represented a new format for that era, as platforms like YouTube and Twitter were just beginning to gain popularity, and Twitch was still in its infancy. Despite its limitations, the game offered a unique and unsettling experience for players.
So what exactly was Hotel 626? Technically, it was a horror game designed to be played on web browsers, incorporating elements of the PC screen, microphone, and webcam interactions. The gameplay lasted for about 15 minutes, during which players found themselves trapped in an eerie and horrifying world. However, the game has now disappeared from the internet.
Released around Halloween, Hotel 626 was a strategic move by Doritos. Rather than just promoting their snack flavors, they combined first-person horror gaming with elements of modern “Scape Rooms,” urging players to interact with their devices in unconventional ways to survive the game’s terrors. The game even utilized players’ own photos, mixing them with images of other real players, adding to the eerie atmosphere.
In order to play Hotel 626, players had to book a virtual hotel room, providing their email and phone number to create an account and grant access to microphones and webcams. Furthermore, the game was only active from 6 pm to 6 am, requiring players to experience it at night, preferably in the dark.
Despite the limitations of current technology and potential legal repercussions, the game achieved its goal of leaving players feeling uneasy. This unsettling experience was further enhanced when players received a mysterious phone call upon completing the game.
Hotel 626 presented players with scenarios that would be challenging to replicate today due to stricter regulations and privacy concerns. The game blurred the line between reality and fiction, leaving players questioning their own experiences.
The content ended with a disturbing final phone call that left players with chills long after the game was over. Hotel 626 gained significant attention and became a phenomenon at that time, inspiring numerous follow-ups and imitations.
One such follow-up was “Asylum 626,” which took players deeper into a twisted horror experience. Much like its predecessor, Asylum 626 also blurred the line between reality and horror, incorporating photos of players’ Facebook contacts and manipulating camera proximity for horrifying scares. However, this sequel utilized promotional codes from Doritos packages, somewhat breaking the immersion of the game.
Both Hotel 626 and Asylum 626 are no longer accessible, as they have disappeared from the internet. Their unique blend of terror, technology, and advertising resonated specifically in their time, reflective of shifting trends and sensibilities in the entertainment industry. The games serve as a reminder of how the landscape of gaming, media, and marketing continues to evolve.
While games like Hotel 626 may not be feasible today, the legacy of these unique and unsettling experiences lives on, leaving a lasting imprint on players and the gaming industry.