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The Quest to Reinvigorate Atari

19 Aug, 2005 By: John Gaudiosi

Time Shift

When consumers think about Atari, the brand often connotes strong emotional attachment and nostalgia with the Atari 2600 console and games like Asteroids, Pitfall and Combat.

While that has translated to solid sales of these classic games in new formats and collections, it has not helped the company find an identity for today.

“The Atari brand is a bit of a conundrum,” said Wim Stocks, Atari's EVP of sales and distribution. “People ask us where we've been for 25 years.”

Stocks said the goal is to exploit the legacy of Atari through new iterations and connect with this nostalgia by reinventing classic games for today's next-generation consoles.

“We need to modernize the Atari brand through original games and allow it to co-exist with the retro Atari brand,” he said.

Although Atari continues to move forward without a president, and its financials have taken hits in recent months, the publisher has a full slate of PC and console games on tap.

Atari will usher in a huge marketing push beginning with theatrical ads this September for ‘Teen'-rated The Matrix: The Path of Neo, which ships for Xbox, PlayStation 2 and PC Nov. 15. The game, which lets players assume the role of Neo and play through all three films, has been designed by the Wachowski brothers (creators of “The Matrix”) and Shiny Entertainment.

Atari sold 6 million units of Enter the Matrix worldwide, and Dave Perry, the man behind the new game, believes the fan base wants to experience the film universe first-hand. One of the key selling points is the involvement of the Wachowskis.

Stocks said Warner Home Video will give its 10-disc Ultimate Matrix Collection a new push this fall in conjunction with the game.

Another mass-market game from Atari is the ‘Everyone'-rated Dragon Ball Z Budokai TenKaichi, based on the popular anime series. This fourth game in a franchise that has sold more than 10 million units includes voices of actors from the TV series.

Atari hopes to attract new gamers with its unique ‘Mature'-rated title, Mark Ecko's Getting Up: Contents Under Pressure. The game will tap into the world of fashion designer Ecko, who creates a game world that blends hip-hop, graffiti art and Hollywood voice talent.

Atari has a potential sleeper hit with the ‘Mature'-rated Indigo Prophecy, which ships for PS2, Xbox and PC in September. The thriller puts the player, as Lucas Kane, in the center of a mystery that involves supernatural events and an ancient prophecy.

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