Atari Is Dying, Again Again Again…

By Alec Meer on January 21st, 2013 at 2:00 pm.

…and aims to be reborn, again again again. It’s been a long time since Atari has been a force to be reckoned with, and longer still since it wasn’t secretly Infogrames in disguise. Atari has been a transferable name for long years now, rather than truly representing the Nolan Bushnell-founded firm behind invaluable proto-videogames such as Pong, Asteroids, Lula: The Sexy Empire and Centipede. It first ‘died’ in 1984, which entailed the first of many transitions into a new corporation bearing the Atari name, and the first of many financial struggles. Now its latest incarnation is filing for bankruptcy, as part of a plan to start over yet again.

As far as I can tell – and I can’t tell much on a Monday – the US arm of Atari wants to be rid of its French parenty company, Atari S.A. which was formerly Infogrames. Sort of. Remember Infogrames?

This French arm is particularly beleaguered by money woes, and apparently the plan is that if the US firm, Atari Inc, can declare bankruptcy it can ditch its substantial debt, be bought up as a private company and get on this whole damned merry-go-round all over again.

Atari Inc., a small, 40-person outfit based in New York, is trying to get on with download and social games (it’s working on a new version of Pong with Zyngaaaaaaaaargh), where it’s seen some small success already. Atari S.A., meanwhile, continues to haemorrhage money, so God only knows what happens to that once Inc does its thing. The LA Times, which broke this latest sad chapter of the Atari story, reckons the French arm may seek “legal protection to find a buyer or dissolve in that country.” So could we end up with two totally different Ataris? Depends, I think, on if Atari Inc. is sold outright or if its CEO Jim Wilson – also CEO of Atari S.A. – drums up enough backing to keep/gain control himself.

Messy. Unsavoury. I’d say the Atari brand had become so toxic by this point that it wasn’t worth trying anything, but that just isn’t true – I’ll warrant the bulk of the gaming world, especially those parts of it which wear faux-retro Atari t-shirts, have absolutely no idea the brand ever changed hands. There is money in them that retro hills, even if I increasingly lose faith that it would be mined in a way that impressed me.

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45 Comments »

  1. Neurotic says:

    Awesome.

  2. Mr. Mister says:

    Cm’on, you could have put an actual Pong there, instead of a gif. Google would’ve.

    • The Random One says:

      Pretty sure that, if they had, whichever soulless corporate conglomerate about to animate the brand through unholy business necromancies would sue RPS to hell and back.

    • Lekker says:

      Don’t forget to turn off block window pop-up for that site.

      http://stewd.io/pong/

  3. Zunt says:

    V: So what do they call Atari in France?
    J: Infogrames Royale.
    V: Huh. And what do they call Valve?
    J: Valve is Valve but they call it Le Valve.
    V: Le Valve, ha ha ha! What do they call Zynga?
    J: I dunno, I didn’t go into Facebook.

    • Yosharian says:

      win

    • c-Row says:

      J: I want you to go in that bag, and find my wallet.
      P: Which one is it?
      J: It’s the one that says Bad Management Decisions.

    • Bluerps says:

      Oh man, I shot Zynga in the face.

    • ryanrybot says:

      “Who’s studio is this?”
      “It’s Infogrames, baby.”
      “Who’s Infogrames is this?”
      “It’s Atari’s”
      “Who’s Atari?”
      “Atari’s dead, baby… Atari’s dead.”

    • Jason Moyer says:

      Let me ask you a question. When you came pulling in here, did you notice a sign out in front of my house that said “Dead Brand Name Storage”?

    • Syra says:

      I don’t know what brought on this pulp fiction thread but I salute you one and all.

    • roryok says:

      you may enjoy this

    • MacTheGeek says:

      “The way your dad looked at it, Atari was your birthright. He’d be damned if any lawyers gonna put their greasy fingers on his boy’s birthright, so he hid it, in the one place he knew he could hide something: his ass. Five long years, he kept Atari up his ass. Then when he died of dysentery, he gave me the watch. I hid this uncomfortable corporation up my ass for two years. Then, after seven years, I was sent home to my family. And now, little man, I give Atari to you.”

    • running fungus says:

      So, you guys like to tell jokes, huh? Gigglin’ and laughin’ like a bunch of young broads sittin’ in a schoolyard. Well, let me tell a joke. Five guys, diggin’ a pit, burying copies of ET the Extra-Terrestrial. All wondering how the fuck they got there. What should we have done, what didn’t we do, who’s fault is it, is it my fault, your fault, his fault, all that bullshit. Then one of them says, hey. Wait a minute. When we were programming this thing, all we did was sit around tellin’ fuckin’ jokes! Get the message?

      • mr.black says:

        (And the last obvious one, but heck, this is just my second language..)
        Say Atari! I dare you I double-dare you Maderfcaker! Say Atari one more god-damn time!

    • Neurotic says:

      Say ‘Zynga’ one more time, motherfucker.

  4. Noburu says:

    Zynga eh? Then I hope both divisions of Atari to die a horrible death along with Zynga. Hate to see jobs lost though. If only I could have it both ways.

  5. eRa says:

    Atari is also responsible for the Baldur’s Gate – Enhanced Edition on Steam. Beamdog has nothing to do with that.

    • JFS says:

      Yeah, this might explain the sudden release on Steam. It came as a real surprise to even Beamdog, I guess.

    • D3xter says:

      “Beamdog has nothing to do with that.”
      Because they’d rather have kept the game Exclusive on their own little platform.

      The biggest hope I have that comes from this, is that it could possibly put an end to “Baldur’s Gate 2: The Enchanted Trent Oster Edition”.

      Also in the longer term that some of their IPs (Neverwinter Nights, Outcast, Alone in the Dark etc. and all the Retro stuff) might end up in some capable hands for once.

      • Cruyelo says:

        “We are completely not affected by the Atari bankruptcy. Recent dealings make a lot more sense now. ”

        It remains to be seen what happens with the Steam version.
        2 main things : Steam version is not up-to-date and Beamdog was talking with Atari about giving free steam keys to anyone who owned the Beamdog version of the game.

        Depending on what happens, both of those things could become harder or easier to deal with.

  6. Zanchito says:

    I remember with fondness the old Infogrames games. Sad to see how low has the mighty Atari fallen.

    • LionsPhil says:

      “The mighty Atari” died long ago. People just keep wearing its flesh as a suit.

      • Lord Custard Smingleigh says:

        By the year 2046 every single person on the planet will have been Atari for at least 15 minutes.

  7. MOKKA says:

    I miss Infogrames.

  8. RobF says:

    ” I’d say the Atari brand had become so toxic by this point that it wasn’t worth trying anything, but that just isn’t true”

    Yeah, this is the thing I find -really- depressing. There’s still a massive amount of YAY ATARI out there despite them being a terrible, terrible husk of a company who’ve done little good (and I don’t just mean in the releasing games sense) for years now. Their recent iOS/Facebook crossovers have been terrible things, they’ve treated what few properties they’ve managed to discern they really do own with nothing but disrespect, had so many games removed from the internet (seriously, chasing Pong games in this day and age – shame on them) and their last desperate attempt to get something, anything to release with the competition came with the most egregious of terms but fuck, it’s Atari. SIGN ME UP says people.

    That one of the games they’re working on right now is Pong with Zynga, that’s all anyone needs to know about how far they’ve sunk. Pong. With Zynga. Every time you think they can’t get shitter, they can’t scrape that barrel harder, there’s something else around the corner.

    To the wall with them. Maybe then some good can come from it.

  9. Sp4rkR4t says:

    I hope the french arm can find a way to survive and ditches the Atari brand to become Infograms Mk II.

  10. Tei says:

    I have good memories of Infogrames. ATARI has always been to me the makers of the Atari 2600, with games like TANKS… and maybe the distribuitors of Neverwinter (If I remember correctly). But not much else.

    I hate http://www.redit.com/gaming/ because is full of “Do you remember Zelda?” posts. Hipsterism about old games is the worst type of hipsterism. Why pay tribute (in a infinite loop) to old games wen theres new ones that are awesome? Nostalgia is the worst thing.

    • Dominus_Anulorum says:

      Nostalgia can be bad, but I wouldn’t call it the worst thing. I love waxing about the Ocarina of Time, but I don’t think I have played a game older than five years in the past six months. I am sure that in a decade I will be nostalgic about mass effect and crusader kings 2, but will also be playing the new games. The two aren’t mutually exclusive.

    • Universal Quitter says:

      http://www.theonion.com/articles/man-who-enjoys-thing-informed-he-is-wrong,7057/

      This is precisely what you’re doing, although I’m confident you don’t realize it. Few people intend to be dicks.

  11. Lambchops says:

    The main thing I remember Infogrames for was Outcast.

    Pretty sure they published some other good games as well but that was the standout for me.

    • Llewyn says:

      And of course, by extension, we remember Infogrames for pulling the financial rug out from under Appeal, causing Outcast 2 to be cancelled.

      Bastards.

      What I mostly remember (modern) Atari for is selling my personal details to third party advertisers without my consent.

      Bastards.

  12. Cinnamon says:

    Hurray for trademarks, intellectually property and bankruptcy law. A recipe for exciting new developments in the world of computer games if ever I heard one.

    I liked North & South on the Amiga I guess.

  13. malkav11 says:

    Have they even released anything interesting in the last several years? I can’t think of anything.

  14. DK says:

    The whole Atari stuff is also likely the reason the new Neverwinter is in development hell. Atari and Perfect World are having a tug over the rights to publish DnD computer games.

  15. Core says:

    I wonder what this means for the legal battle between them and the wizards of the coast? Will Neverwinter Nights 2, and it’s expansion ever be available in Steam again…

    • zeekthegeek says:

      I may be willing to put my money I was going to use to become owner of THQ ($80) towards getting Atari if it means I can get some NWN2 on a good platform at a good price.

  16. Hmm-Hmm. says:

    Part of me just wants these companies to be gone. Let’s be done with that nonsense and using a name they had nothing to do with.

  17. Arglebargle says:

    Infogrammes….the company that could actually screw up Master of Orion 3. You had a golden goose, and you cooked it!

    It’s on my list of synonyms for incompetance….

  18. Dr. Shenanigans says:

    Oh dear god that song I don’t even

    • MOOncalF says:

      o/` Infogrames is innovation! the power of imagination! infogrames is innovation that rocks my world! o/`

  19. Spacewalk says:

    I tried returning a dead brand once but the guy behind the counter tried hard to convince me that it was still alive.