Atari blasts back from the past with new game plan

Thu Dec 11, 2008 10:30am EST
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By John Gaudiosi

LONDON (Reuters Life!) - For many gamers Atari is a blast from the past or just a logo on retro T-shirts but the company that dates back 36 years is looking to reclaim a stake of the video game landscape.

Atari Inc., founded by Nolan Bushnell, launched the first truly successful video game "Pong" in 1972 but has struggled in recent years with lackluster games like "Jenga World Tour" and "Godzilla Unleashed."

But a change in ownership this year aims to reinvigorate the company. French game publisher Infogrames had owned a majority stake in Atari since 2000 but acquired the rest of Atari this year and has assumed its name.

New Atari President Phil Harrison, who helped build Sony Worldwide Studios into a leading game development factory, said it's now up to the game maker to build the products and services that do the well-known Atari brand justice.

"Having a cool logo and a brand that's known throughout the world is great, but unless it stands for something and actually resonates with our players by delivering great value, fun gameplay, and entertainment, it doesn't mean anything," he said.

Analysts said Atari had an interesting but checkered past which could makes some consumers -- and investors -- wary of its bid to get back on top of the game.

"The Atari name will always mean 'old school cool' to gamers, but the brand may need some rehab to regain respect," said Billy Pidgeon, videogame analyst at IDC.

Atari used London's 02 Arena to showcase 14 games heading to stores in 2009, most of which will ship in the first six months.   Continued...

<p>A screenshot shows "The Witcher: Rise of the White Wolf" in this handout photo. REUTERS/Atari/Handout</p>