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Atari is a corporate and brand name owned by several entities since its inception in 1972. Currently, the French publisher Atari, SA (formerly Infogrames Interactive) is the right holders of 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.
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 (simply to cash in on the brand) in 2003. During 1990-2005, Infogrames was the largest French gaming company before being surpassed by Ubisoft.
On March 6, 2008, Infogrames made an offer to Atari Inc. 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.
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. Including Humongous Entertainment and 100 other games to Tommo, Backyard Sports to Day 6 Sports Group LLC, Battlezone and MoonBase Commander to Rebellion Developments, Total Annihilation and Master of Orion to Wargaming, Star Control to Stardock, 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, Eden Games to its founder David Nadal, Alone in the Dark, Desperados and Silver, and Act of War to THQ, 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 laid off their employees again and reduced their size into a small company today.
The original Infogrames to Joueur du Grenier, a famous French reviewer, is what LJN is to the AVGN.
Why They Suck Now
Why Atari Inc. in their final year (1982 - 1983) Sucked
- After dominating the market for over 10 years with Atari 2600, Atari Inc. became cocky and decided to produce a massive surplus of game cartridges due to them believing that they would be eventually be sold along with more Atari 2600 consoles (a particular example is when they made over 12 millions of cartridges of Pac-Man despite only 10 millions units of Atari 2600s being sold). However, due to various factors such as a massive amount of Shovelware Games on the market back then and fierce competition with several consoles, Atari failed to sell the excess cartidges, which caused the company to go bankrupt in 1983, marking the beginning of the great video game crash of 1983.
- Over 700,000 unsold cartridges were later buried in Alamogordo, New Mexico.
- They had rushed the development of their games in order to sell them during the Christmas holiday, resulting in some of the worst games to ever be published. The most infamous example is E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial.
- Due to how Atari made a lot of surplus cartridges as mentioned above, E.T. was a massive commercial failure and was one of the reasons that caused the 1983 crash.
- In an attempt to gain the upper hand over their competitors, Atari created the Atari 5200, a game console that is inferior to the original 2600 in almost every way (due to it was rushed for Christmas release again) and widely regarded as one of the worst video game consoles ever made.
- To add insult to injury, Atari already had a successor to the 2600 in development way back in 1976, but the company's new owners at the time, Warner Communications decided to instead turn it into the Atari 400/800 series of microcomputers, thinking video-gaming would just be a fad. (The 5200 was still based on the architecture of the 400/800, but by 1982, it was severely outdated).
Why Atari Co. Sucked
- Atari Co. 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 Jaguar was world's first 64-bit consoles, while in reality, they were just using two 32-bit processors in it.
- 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.
Why Atari Interactive Sucked
- Hasbro barely used the brand name for their games, and merely arcade game remakes such as Centipede 3D, most of which weren't that spectacular and sold poorly.
- In fact, games that were supposed to be released under the label (such as Frogger 2: Swampy's Revenge) were instead released as normal Hasbro Interactive titles.
Why Infogrames' Atari, SA Sucks
- Due to their "expand through acquisition" policy, Infogrames mostly prefered 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. This policy would backfire on them later in 2013 after they went bankrupt and were forced to release their studios and license due to having too many development studios in their hands.
- Infogrames rebranded themselves as Atari, SA in 2009 to simply to cash-in on owning the brand. Mostly cash-in on nostalgia pandering of the good old day in a similar manner to Sega.
- They kept forcing developers to rush games in order to release them before their rivals, such as Driver 3, which was rushed in order 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 cancelled.
- They couldn’t even take criticism for the game, as evidenced during the development of 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 as trolls.
- After the ill-conceived RollerCoaster Tycoon World was released, Atari kept milking the RollerCoaster Tycoon series despite the series being past it’s 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 announced Atari VCS, a semi-retro gaming console that would be developed through crowdfunding campaign. However, there are several shady practices happened during the whole development cycle, for example;
- While Atari vaguely gave information about the specification of the console on a crowdfunding page on Indiegogo, the backers never received any information or update about the console's development progress.
- At first, Atari claimed that the console would have its own operating system along with its own online store. However, Atari later reverted their statement by saying that it will only be a built-in console without online store features.
- In 2018, Feargal Mac Conuladh, the original designer of the VCS, sued Atari after they had reneged on a deal to give him a four-per-cent cut of crowdfunding revenues over $200,000, plus 25 per cent of the limited company set up to launch the console. Conuladh later received $82,400 compensation from Atari after they have settled their dispute out of New York court in 2019.
- On their Fortnite "gameplay" video, a big "Activate Windows" watermark appeared on the screen despite the VCS supposedly being a Linux-based system.
- According to Rob Wyatt, Atari VCS' former lead designer and programmer in 2019. He claimed that Atari haven't paid his team for six months.
- Atari has delayed the VCS' launch several times, the first time from June 2019 to March 2020, and later to December 2020. Most fans are now doubted if Atari will meet their deadline. The fact that Atari is no longer a huge company and doesn't even have the manpower to make AAA titles since their bankruptcy in 2013 doesn't help either.
- The VCS' price tag is $379, which is considered to be very overpriced for its system spec (have the same price tag as the PlayStation 4, yet it is much weaker than the PS4).
- All of 100 games that were pre-loaded with the VCS can be found on Atari Vault on Steam and were sold for only $8.
While the current Atari is just a hollow shell of their former self, there's an article on Awesome Games Wiki about the good old Atari before the 1983 crash.