In Part Two, we finished the article by describing how Atari had reached a situation in the 1990s in which they had plenty of money in the bank after several successful lawsuits but two failed devices – the Atari Lynx and the Atari Jaguar. The Lynx struggled to gain market foothold against the inferior but cheaper Nintendo Gameboy and for reasons which are difficult to ascertain, the Jaguar never grabbed the public’s imagination, selling less than 250,000. Interestingly, the Jaguar is now a sought after console for video games aficionados and one U.K. company in particular, Telegames Ltd, is the place to go for boxed and unused consoles.
The following years saw a number of mergers and acquisitions beginning with a hook up with JTS Inc., a producer of hard disk drives, and then in 1998 Hasbro bought the Atari name from JTS for $5 million. By this stage all Hasbro was buying was the intellectual property associated with Atari, it had nothing else. Hasbro, in turn, was bought by French software developer Infogrammes in 2000. Infogrammes seems to have been the first genuine software developer to realise that the name ‘Atari’ alone had value for games purchasers.
In 2001 Infogrammes effectively rebranded itself as Atari – Atari Inc. in the United States (only partially owned by Infogrammes) and Atari Europe in Europe; The bit which was acquired from Hasbro became Atari Interactive. Infogrammes remained the umbrella company. It’s first two games released which featured Atari branding were Splashdown and MX Rider. In 2008 Infogrammes finally gained total ownership of Atari Inc.
Later that year Atari bought Cryptic Studios, a small but reputable U.S. developer of MMORPG (Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games). In 2009, a piece of Atari headed East when Japanese developer, Namco Bandai, acquired 34% of Atari Europe.
Demonstrating the circular nature of some things, in 2009 Infogrammes finally changed it’s name to Atari, SA (the SA stands for Societe Anonyme and is the equivalent of a U.K. PLC) and in 2010 Nolan Bushnell finally returned as the CEO, replacing incumbent David Gardner. The company will be hoping the return of Bushnell will have some impact on the company’s fortunes; it has not been making money (and has in fact been losing much of it) for some years now.
To celebrate this most famous of game and hardware developers, let’s have a quick look at some of the best games Atari has produced in it’s long and distinguished history.
Let’s start with the Atari 2600 and Centipede, a basic but addictive game released in 1980 with fantastic/annoying sounds depending on your preferences:
How about Yar’s Revenge; transport yourself back to 1981 for Atari’s biggest selling original game:
Here’s 1994′s Alien vs Predator for the Jaguar, one of the biggest selling titles for that console.
Lastly, Test Drive Unlimited 2 is one of the newest titles available and proves that Atari still have what it takes to compete in this industry.