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back to article Game over for Atari? One life left as biz files for bankruptcy protection

Atari Interactive Inc has sought protection from US creditors, 41 years after Nolan Bushnell’s gaming legend was born with Pong. Atari has entered Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, a provision in US law that’ll enable the struggling biz to operate and potentially restructure without those it owes calling in their debts. The …

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The logo

is the most marketable thing they have, I'd guess.

Please, someone buy it and stick it on some quality games.

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MrT
Bronze badge

T-shirts...

...seemed to be the only thing they did in the past few years. I own several, but the last game I bought that was badged up as Atari was Enter the Matrix nearly 10 years ago. So by that standard it has been more than 10 years since the last decent Atari game...

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Anonymous Coward

Was this Atari even remotely anything to do with the old Atari? or was it just a brand purchased and slapped on substandard junk to sell it just like Commodore.

The problem I see is that anyone buying Atari is only interested in trying to use their old back catalogue and technology to sell novelty items. That's not really a business model that has much future.

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Not Atari

You are correct.

The Atari we all know ended in 1996.

This company is Tramel Technology Ltd. who purchased the Atari brand and renamed themselves.

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'Was this Atari even remotely anything to do with the old Atari? or was it just a brand purchased and slapped on substandard junk to sell it just like Commodore.'

Sadly there's little if anything left of the original Atari.

The company has been sliced and diced repeatedly by asset-strippers.

Up until 1984 it was a real pioneer with a huge research division doing things like high-speed networking, computer music and interactive learning environments. When Warner Bros sold it, they split Atari down the middle into a games division (Atari Games) and one for hardware (Atari Computer).

The games people did pretty well for a while and eventually ended up being taken up by NAMCO. Atari Computer was always underfunded and its ST computers couldn't keep up with the developing PC, and the consoles couldn't match Sega or Nintendo, so Atari Computer was eventually sold for a pittance to a joystick manufacturer. They in turn sold the brand and IP on to Hasbro for something like $5 million. Hasbro then got taken over by Infogrames Entertainment SA.

Inforgrames renamed their existing GT Interactive division as Infogrames Inc and then as Atari SA which they've used to publish both new games and old titles under the Atari name.

It's just a name, but it's sad to see Atari in this situation once again. I suspect the name will go to yet another owner who cares little or nothing for its history of innovation.

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Anonymous Coward

Not exactly right...

"Bushnell’s company [Atari Inc.] was eventually split in 1984 to create Atari Consumer Electronics and Atari Games; the former was sold in a reverse takeover to computer hard-drive maker JT Storage."

Not exactly; the consumer division formed the basis of Jack Tramiel's Atari Corp. that existed for over a decade (bringing us the ST, Lynx and Jaguar) before running out of steam circa 1996.

After the Jaguar had flopped, Atari Corp. was still cash rich, but had no saleable products and no future. Tramiel merged it with JTS (a second-rate hard drive maker) effectively as a means to transfer his investment, and Atari Corp. ceased any meaningful operations at that point.

"Atari Games reserved the rights to use the Atari logo and brand, and use the games hardware developed between 1972 and 1984."

Atari Games only had the rights to the "Atari" name on *arcade* games; that's why they had to use the "Tengen" brand on home releases. Tramiel's Atari Corp. retained the name for home and consumer use, as well as the pre-existing VCS/2600 console and 400/800 computers.

Although both Atari Games and Atari Corp. are defunct, AFAIK Infogrames became "Atari" through Atari Corp's rights, *not* Atari Games' (Hasbro Interactive bought them when JTS went bankrupt, then Infogrames bought Hasbro).

Atari Games are now also defunct- were renamed, then shut down operations in 2003. I don't know what happened to "their" Atari rights (for the arcade games field), though apparently Warner bought their IP 2 or 3 years back.

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Unhappy

Shame

The Atari brand is poisionous now IMHO - it's been struggling along for years and is somewhat synonomous with failure.

A shame. Many many happy hours slugging over a toasty warm 800XL.

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Terminator

Empty shell

"Hasbro Interactive bought what was left of Atari in 1998 and sold that to Infogrammers Entertainment in 1999 for $95m in stock and $5m in cash. Atari SA was the name eventually adopted by Infogrammers, which promised to revitalize the brand."

At which point, it was already an empty shell doing just vid games production, and no longer any development, state it never left ...

So corporate politics, marketing and greedy salesmen only ...

They also had quite some IP and exclusive rights (D&D vid games exclusivity for example), which they used and abused, often detrimentally to the games (Neverwinter Nights, FFS !), which eventually pissed off a number of players and companies, led to boycott Atari entirely.

But anyway, this ridiculous behaviour led Bioware to never rely again on publisher's IP, create their own, and we got Mass Effect and Dragon Age, so this had a good effect.

Now, I think this is time, for Atari, to rest in peace ...

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Unhappy

End of an era

Such a shame - maybe I'm just an old nostalgic, but the games of that era seemed much more fun that anything the AAA studios are pumping out now.

I still have my 1040STE - damn good machine, despite the claims of the "Commodore Games Machine" (Amiga) owners, some great times spent learning coding, ultimately resulting in my first published games.

Like the 60s: gone - but never forgotten.

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Re: End of an era

Are you for real?? Amigas were well better than Ataris!!

Laughably so, in fact.

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Silver badge

Re: End of an era

I think the poster's just saying that Ataris were pretty good regardless of the quality of Amigas.

The STE is also quite a bit better than the machine you're probably thinking of — it has a blitter and hardware PCM audio. Like Commodore, Atari released improved hardware as the years ticked by.

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Pint

Re: End of an era

"I still have my 1040STE - damn good machine.."

Glad to hear that, agree with everything said.

For bragging rights, I've got my original 520STE, RAM has long since been fattened up to 4MB and it has a SD card hard disk doobrie. Then there are *two*Falcon 030's, both heavily enhanced with after-market processor upgrades, and there's a spare Mega ST lurking somewhere as well. And yes, they do get regular use as well.

This is a relatively modest collection though. Some other people have (literal) shed-loads of kit.

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Thumb Up

Re: End of an era (Amiga vs AtariST)

I remember back in the day, I was one of the Amiga lads who hated the Atari ST with a passion, for one reason - game porting.

The Atari ST could display a maximum of 4 bitplanes / 16 colours, while the Amiga could do 5 bitplanes / 32 colours or 6 bitplanes / 64/4096 colours within certain limits, if you used Half-brite or HAM mode (this was before the A1200/4000 with the 8-bitplane AGA chipset.) Both machines used the Motorola 68000 CPU, so code written on one machine could be easily ported to the other - as long as it didn't reference the Amiga's custom hardware.

Now I grant that Half-brite/HAM modes were not practical for most gaming purposes due to the quirkiness of those modes and the limitations of the CPU and graphics hardware - but the Amiga did have the custom chipset, notably Paula and Agnus, the famed Amiga "blitter" and "copper", which allowed smooth scrolling and a lot more moving objects and colours. The Atari did not, and relied solely on the poor old 68000 for its graphics grunt.

Cue games developers coding games for the lowest common denominator - the Atari ST - and then porting them to the Amiga unaltered. So the games were seriously limited to what the ST could handle - 16 colours only, awful jittery scrolling, crappy music and sound (the ST relied on MIDI rather than a good onboard sound chip), and no blitter or copper to speed things up or exploit the Amiga's capabilities.

Most arcade conversions suffered from this, so great arcade games like Space Harrier and Outrun that could have really shone on the Amiga were dragged down to the level of the Atari - which made the Amiga look much less than it was. So many games that could have been awesome simply sucked, and the term "Atari ST port" became a derogatory byword for a game not worth the bother of pirating it, let alone buying it.

The magazines of the day generally concurred on this issue, and I recall some scathing reviews from Amiga Format and Australian Commodore and Amiga Review! This was of course in the days when magazines actually delivered honest reviews, not bought-and-paid-for puff pieces published under threat of advertisement withdrawal like so many of today's mags.

I remember fondly some games that were coded specifically to take advantage of the Amiga's hardware - notably Sword of Sodan, The Settlers and Superfrog - and I played all those games to death during their heyday. The Settlers I particularly remember because the Amiga version simply blew away the PC version in graphics, sound and speed, and so I (erroneously as it turned out) came to believe that the good old Miggy was finally coming into its own, and represented the future of computing.

How wrong I was...

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Bronze badge

Re: End of an era (Amiga vs AtariST)

"... and so I (erroneously as it turned out) came to believe that the good old Miggy was finally coming into its own, and represented the future of computing.

How wrong I was..."

I too fell into this trap.

So much so that I spent a small fortune on "Next-Gen-Amigas":

Amiga1XE (800MHz PPC G4) and PegasOS (600MHz G3) when my cash would've probably been better spent elsewhere.

That said, I still own both machines, as well as a couple of A1200s and they all still work, unlike the iBook I chose when I finally decided to grudgingly let go of the Amiga.

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Holmes

Re: End of an era

Only for games and demos. I wanted coding and music (MIDI). I had a Megadrive for gaming.

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Re: End of an era (Amiga vs AtariST)

Re the previous post.

It worked both ways sometimes...

The Atari STE (E for 'enhanced') in particular, didn't get much love from the mainstream software houses. One chap I know, who was in the 'industry' at the time proposed STE enhancements to a road racer game to use the extra hardware and bring it closer to the higher standard on the Amiga. This encountered strong resistance as it was deemed 'too risky' by their publisher.

It subsequently appears that he may have managed to sneak one or two extra's in past the testers...

The STE only started to get a look in with a handful of decent games, right at the end of its commercial life, with small developers who actually made an effort.

The 'porting' issue really boiled down to many software houses and publishers being lazy, looking for low cost and low risk options, sharing and re-using common code, so there was no distinctive technical 'edge' for the Amiga, ST and STE alike.

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Flame

Guys? I know they're french, but...

It's "Infogrames", not "Infogrammers"

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Re: Guys? I know they're french, but...

Of course it is, but copying material verbatim elsewhere without fact-checking is The New Investigative Journalism. Can't expect journos of today to do such menial tasks anymore.

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(Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

Re: Guys? I know they're french, but...

Some kind of horrific grammar/spelling autocorrect is at work here, perhaps. Thanks. It's been fixed.

C.

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Bushnell?

Bushnell leaving Atari had nothing to do with the crash of the home games market. It was the fact that there were relatively few gem games to be found in the mountain of crap third parties were putting out for game systems (all of the ones that were around at the time, not just Atari) in the late 70s. For every good game like Space Invaders or Pacman there were a dozen terrible ones like ET and Custer's Revenge. People quit buying games because most of the games were garbage. There'd be no home gaming market today had Nintendo not come along with the idea of using licensing to impose some sort of quality control on third party developers.

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Re: Bushnell?

"There'd be no home gaming market today had Nintendo not come along"

Bull. There were plenty of good and profitable games for home computers from the Spectrum / C64 era to the Amiga / Atari era and onwards that had nothing to do with Nintendo. The console market died in 1984 but home gaming did not.

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I couldn't affiord...

a Mac. I was a music production technology student... Cuebase was the reason I bought an Atari 1040STE.

I learned so much with that STe.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: I couldn't affiord...

It's spelled Cubase. I still have the floppies for the first Windows version. I miss hacking my MU80.

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Unhappy

Alas poor Atari. I knew him well.

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Anonymous Coward

Now you are making me feel old.

My first computer toy was an Atari Video Pinball (Model C-380).

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Now you are making me feel old.

I almost forgot about the Atari Video Music box I had. My ex used get stoned while watching that thing. She took it with her. I never seen it since.

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Bronze badge

Everyone saw it coming

Used to work for an Atari-infogrames owned development house

They were shambolic, constantly hamstringing good projects

Stopped being actual Atari a long time ago

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Video Music

There's a reason it was often referred to in house as "StoneVision". :-)

BTW: the Amiga was designed by Ex-Atarians, while the ST was designed by ex-Commodore folks. Corporate shenanigans lead to strange bedfellows. (And that's not even counting the ice swan left in a certain Marketing VP's bed)

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I miss Infogrames too

Specifically titles like Alone in the Dark, North and South, Hostages and Alpha Waves.

Not so much Stir Crazy Featuring Bobo, which I seem to remember acquiring only because Your Sinclair offered it as a freebie if you subscribed.

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1040ST FM

Yeah.

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Anonymous Coward

After the debacle of Test Drive Unlimted 2, with it being an awful copy of the SIMs with some cars compared to the blissful driving and exploring experience of Test Drive Unlimited (1?), I'm glad they're getting what they deserve. The final product could be generously called a Beta despite constant feedback during it's development.

Companies that don't listen to their existing customers deserve to fail.

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Steam Debacle

This would explain the recent conversations amongst BOFHs of a certain age yesterday. Their beloved Baldur's Gate has (it appears) been re-released on Steam in a new version supporting modern windows boxes.

Sadly, it appears to be a Steaming Turd of the First Order. I did hear one of them ask: "Why on earth has Atari rushed this out in such a bad state." They did seem happy enough to wait for the patch that will fix the game's complete inability to even launch. Given the filing from Atari, something tells me they'll be a long time waiting...

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