Thursday, March 13, 2008

Infograms Set to Buy Out Atari

One of the more interesting stories of the last decade from the world of videogames has been the name and legacy of Atari. It's the original king of the mountain, the original rock star, and for many of us who grew up in the '80s, was synonymous with videogames. But after struggling through the '90s, Atari Corp was finally sold away and eventually scuttled. The name and rights have been shifting around ever since.

I do appreciate the Infogrames has tried to revive the Atari name. It's a name that really shouldn't die. But the newest incarnation of Atari has proven to be remarkably weak and ineffective. I wonder what the whole point was, when all you intend to do is slap that iconic Atari logo on yet another Dragon Ball Z import. Is that logo even necessary?

There have been some attempts at classic compilations, but always very tepid and over-cautious. I can't name one Atari classic package that's worth its salt. Oh, wait, there is the Atari Flashback, the self-contained Atari 2600 clone that included a number of hit games. That was a good idea. But even then, it was far too little. How many games were released on the venerable 2600? Why limit to only a dozen? What's the point in that?

It's interesting to notice that the 2600 remains the only Atari console to get any attention. A shameful mishandling of one of the industry's best libraries. Where the bloody hell is the Atari 7800? The 5200? Where the bloody hell is the Lynx? Where the bloody hell is the 800 computer? There is so much material in the vaults, just waiting to be reissued and recreated and presented to a new generation. I'm eternally stunned.

The games industry continues to embrace its legacy, albeit slowly, with the rise of Wii Virtual Console and XBLA. Studios and publishers need to push further. Inforgrames should be running with this ball. What the hell is it going to take to see Warlords on the Wii? How about the Atari Lynx on Nintendo DS and Playstation Portable? Smart thinkers would be flooding the Virtual Console with classics every week, and selling them for next to nothing.

Here's what I want to see: Atari 2600 games on VC for 50 points. 7800 games for 100. Heck, keep everything at a dollar or less...just work the long tail for all it's worth. This library isn't making any money as what's the loss? What will it take? Will I have to start buying Atari stock and take over the damned operation myself?

Actually, that's not such a bad idea. I may have to do that.

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