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"The people and talents that made "Atari" what it was are gone, "Atari" today is a shadow of its namesake, they seem to have money, they've got notoriety, but they don't have the lessons that came with that name."— Rerez
Atari is a corporate and brand name owned by several entities since its inception in 1972. Currently, the French publisher Atari SA (formerly Infogrames Entertainment SA) is the right holder of the Atari brand name. The original Atari, Inc. founded in 1972 by Nolan Bushnell and Ted Dabney was a pioneer in arcade games, home video game consoles, and home computers. The company's products, such as Pong and the Atari 2600, helped define the electronic entertainment industry from the 1970s to the mid-1980s.
History of Atari after the 1983 crash
In 1984, the original Atari Inc. was split due to its role in the great video game crash of 1983, and the arcade division was turned into Atari Games. Atari Games received the rights to use the logo and brand name with appended text "Games" on arcade games, as well as rights to the original 1972–1984 arcade hardware properties. Later, Atari Games were merged into a subsidiary of Tramiel Technology, a company founded by one of Atari's former employee, Jack Tramiel. Later, Tramiel Technology would be renamed into Atari Corporation.
During 1990's, Atari Co. released several game consoles in an attempt to re-enter the console market wars. However, due to their several missteps and poor reception of their consoles, Atari filed for bankruptcy in 1996 and finally dissolved in 1998 after Hasbro's accquisition.
While Atari Corporation went their downfall after the North American Video game crash, Atari Games was another story.
Atari as a division of Hasbro (1998–2000)
In March 1998, Atari Co. sold the Atari name and assets to Hasbro Interactive for $5 million—less than a fifth of what Warner Communications had paid 22 years earlier. This transaction primarily involved the brand and intellectual property, which now fell under the Atari Interactive division of Hasbro Interactive.
The brand name changed hands again in December 2000 when French software publisher Infogrames took over Hasbro Interactive.
Infogrames/Atari SA (2001-present)
The original Infogrames was founded in 1983. Through its subsidiaries, Infogrames produced, published and distributed interactive games for all major video game consoles and computer game platforms. During 2000s Infogrames acquired several games developers through their "expand through acquisition" policy. After their acquisition of Hasbro Interactive in 2000, Infogrames re-branded all its subsidiaries under the Atari name in 2003. During 1990-2005, Infogrames was the largest French gaming company before being surpassed by Ubisoft.
In Winter 2007, Atari's market value crashed, falling from $10 billion after Christmas, to $350 million by the end of March.
On March 6, 2008, Infogrames made an offer to Atari Inc. (GT Interactive) to buy out all remaining public shares for a value of $1.68 per share, or $11 million total. The offer would make Infogrames sole owner of Atari Inc., thus making it a privately held company.
On April 30, 2008, Atari Inc. announced its intentions to accept Infogrames' buyout offer and to merge with Infogrames. On October 8, 2008, Infogrames completed its acquisition of Atari Inc., making it a wholly-owned subsidiary. In 2009, Atari spun off most of its distribution to Namco Bandai Games.
However, the company started to lose money after all the buyouts they made from 1996-2002. Even selling off their developers, restructuring and even re-branding themselves as Atari SA didn't help, On January 21, 2013, Atari filed for bankruptcy in the USA. In order to raise funds, the company began to sell off some of its franchises and studios. The company sold 100 games from Humongous Entertainment, Accolade, (including the Bubsy franchise), and MicroProse to Tommo, dozens of titles (including Deadly Dozen, Advent Rising and a few sports games) to Ziggurat Interactive, Backyard Sports to Day 6 Sports Group LLC, Battlezone and MoonBase Commander to Rebellion Developments, Marc Ecko's Getting Up to Devolver Digital, Total Annihilation and Master of Orion to Wargaming, Star Control to Stardock, Outcast to Appeal Studios, Deer Hunter to Glu Mobile, Hogs of War and Fragile Allegiance to Alternative Software, Test Drive and V-Rally to Bigben Interactive, Glover and several other titles to Piko Interactive, the MicroProse brand to David Lagettie, the Accolade brand to Billionsoft, Eden Games to its founder David Nadal then Animoca Brands, Alone in the Dark, Desperados, Silver, and Act of War to THQ Nordic, and Master of Magic to Slitherine.
In 2015, Atari announced a turnaround strategy that would focus on re-releasing the catalog of Atari games. The strategy is focused on "download games, MMO games, mobile games and licensing activities, based in priority around traditional franchises." However, after commercial failure of Alone in the Dark: Illumination and RollerCoaster Tycoon World, Atari were forced to lay off their employees again and reduced their size into a small company.
In 2020, Atari has shifted their business into blockchain, cryptocurrency, hotels, and casinos - most of which are moderately successful. Atari later restructured the company in April 2021, splitting their subsidiary into Atari Gaming to focus on game developments, and Atari Blockchain to focus on other businesses.
The original Infogrames to Joueur du Grenier, a famous French reviewer, is what LJN is to the AVGN.
Why They Don't Play Atari These Days
Why Atari SA/Infogrames Sucks
- Due to their "expand through acquisition" policy, Infogrames mostly preferred to acquire several well-known titles by taking over several developers/publishers just for easy cash-in without putting their effort to create their own franchise, similar to Electronic Arts.
- According to a former employee, the reason for how this ended up coming into how it would become was that Infogrames wanted to base their acquisitions on the same vein as Vivendi, who did and still do a similar policy to this day. To do this, Infogrames borrowed money from the French government and went on a buying spree for video game companies, which prevented the company from moving its main offices elsewhere. However, the policy backfired when the Dot Com bubble burst, which meant Infogrames/Atari had to unwind its buying spree to pay back the money they borrowed. In 2013, Atari filed for bankruptcy and sold everything off piecemeal, except their classic arcade games and RollerCoaster Tycoon.
- Infogrames rebranded themselves as Atari SA in 2009 simply to cash in on owning the brand. Mostly cash-in on nostalgia pandering of the good old days in a similar manner to Sega. As well as to wash their bad reputation in their home country of France, as they're only known for making bad video games based on Belgian comics.
- Similar to Sega in the 2000s, they kept forcing developers to rush games to release them before their rivals, such as Driver 3, which was rushed to be on the shelves before Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas.
- They were behind the infamous Driv3rgate controversy, in which they bribed several gaming journalists to rate Driver 3 with a high score to cover up the game's actual quality.
- They have created a lot of poorly made cash-in movie tie-in games, such as Terminator 3: War of the Machines.
- They ruined a lot of franchises under their ownership, the most notable example being the Driver and Alone in the Dark franchises.
- They nagged indie developers in an attempt to publish the game by themselves, such as with Asteroids: Outpost, leading to the game being canceled.
- They couldn't even take criticism for RollerCoaster Tycoon World. They were caught stealing fan art of the game and used it as their "official art" and called those who pointed out about this trolls.
- After the ill-conceived RollerCoaster Tycoon World was released, Atari kept milking the RollerCoaster Tycoon series despite the series being past its prime in the worst way possible, some of the newer "installment" includes Rollercoaster Tycoon Story for iOS and Android, which is just a match-3 game and not a building management game.
- The latest entry of the franchise, RollerCoaster Tycoon Adventures (released in 2018) is basically a lazy mobile port of RollerCoaster Tycoon Touch, a freemium mobile game released a few years earlier.
- In 2017, they've announced Atari VCS (codename: Ataribox), a semi-retro gaming console that would be developed through a crowdfunding campaign. However, several shady practices happened during the whole development cycle until the release in 2021.
- Even back then, they had a handful of bad games like Fantasia and Nickelodeon Party Blast.
- Speaking of which, the former resulted in Sega getting sued by Roy Disney Jr. for greenlighting the game, as it had violated a promise that Roy made to his uncle Walt that he would not allow licenses for Fantasia.
- Since late 2020, they've been trying to spread the Atari name on several shady cryptocurrency and NFTs business. Such as:
- They're teaming up with the ICICB Group to use Atari's cryptocurrency Atari Coins as a payment for products such as fully branded hotels in Spain, and using it for other stuff to expand their stock price in a rather scammy attempt to get away from going bankrupt. They are also opening a casino that support their cryptocurrency under Atari brand.
- They have invested in a shady NFTs and blockchain market, which is a horribly greedy practice as blockchains and cryptocurrencies like Ethereum and Bitcoin (the former is used by most NFTs) are harmful to the environment. Since it has expanded their stock price, it seems that this shady practice will be the only thing to keep the company afloat for the next few years.
- In January of 2022, they announced they would be selling NFT lootboxes to "celebrate" the company's 50th anniversary, completely ignoring their own brand's legacy. This, of course, was met with heavy backlash from fans.
Why Atari Corporation Sucked
- Atari Corporation mostly used their brand name as a selling point without putting much effort into their products, leading to several technical problems.
- False advertising: One particular example is when they claimed that the Atari Jaguar was the world's first 64-bit console, while in reality, they were just using two 32-bit processors in it, making the graphics look bad.
- Their consoles tended to suffer from horrible ergonomic designs, mostly caused by the controller's oversized design, as evidenced in Atari Lynx and Atari Power Pad/Jaguar Controller.
- They offered very limited third-party support on their console, resulted in a very limited amount of game library on their platforms.
- They were notorious for abusing their employee to work overtime without being paid. A notable example is the development of Fight for Life in which the sole programmer was forced to work alone without resource and help.
- The brand still managed to have good games like the Dragon Ball Z: Budokai and Budokai Tenkaichi series, Silver, Alone in the Dark (except the 2008 reboot (depending on your view) and Illumination), Yu Yu Hakusho: Dark Tournament, RollerCoaster Tycoon, Godzilla (except Unleashed), Driver (except Driver 3(depending on your view)), Ghostbusters: The Video Game, and Glover.
- Some of their subsidiaries under their old names, like GT Interactive (Doom, Duke Nukem and Unreal), Humongous Entertainment (until 2002) and even Infogrames (Looney Tunes games) have had some decent titles.
- They also release compilations and/or Plug ’n’ Plays of their older games from back in their glory days, with stuff like the Atari Flashback series of Plug ‘n’ Play systems from AtGames (who also released 4 compilations for consoles (they’re all combined in one for the Switch), Atari Vault (it’s basically the same as the Atari Flashback without mention of AtGames and on PC, except you only get the first volume of the Flashback collection, while the rest is locked behind DLC), and Atari Anthology.
- While the current Atari is just a hollow shell of their former self, Atari Inc. and Atari Games were good companies. For good qualities, there's an article on Awesome Games Wiki about them.
List of studios that were acquired or approached by and shut down or sold by Atari SA/Infogrames
- Ocean Software (Purchased in 1996, rebranded as Infogrames United Kingdom in 1998 and Atari UK in 2003. Sold to Bandai Namco Entertainment in 2009, where they currently trade as Bandai Namco Entertainment UK ltd.)
- Philips Multimedia BV
- OziSoft (Stake purchased in 1998, fully purchased in 2002 and rebranded as Infogrames Australia Pty. Ltd. and later Atari Australia Pty. Ltd. Sold to Bandai Namco Entertainment in 2009, where they currently trade as Bandai Namco Entertainment Australia Pty Ltd.)
- Gremlin Interactive
- DMA Design (sold to Take-Two Interactive in 1999 and transitioned DMA to Rockstar Games, where they now trade as Rockstar North Ltd.)
- Beam Software (sold to Krome Studios in 2006, and renamed to Krome Studios Melbourne)
- Humongous Entertainment, Inc.
- Reflections Interactive Limited (sold to Ubisoft, and renamed to Ubisoft Reflections Limited)
- Legend Entertainment
- SingleTrac Entertainment Technologies, Inc.
- Paradigm Entertainment (sold to THQ in 2006 and closed in 2008)
- Hasbro Interactive
- Shiny Entertainment, Inc.
- Eden Games (Survived and cut all ties with the company)
- Cryptic Studios (sold to Perfect World in 2011)
- GT Interactive
- Renegade Software
- Time Warner Interactive Europe
- MacSoft (sold to Destineer in 2003)
- Infogrames used to touch with Kemco, which some of Infogrames' games were ported by Kemco to the NES and the SNES.