I’m an old gamer and I mean like Beta Magnavox old, so when I heard about Atari making a comeback, a company I had long believed to be dead, I had to ask what is Atari doing and where has it been? Let’s start with some history and then build up to the reveal of their current plans.
The Beginning of Consoles
The Beta Magnavox was not really a beta, but the real thing. It was one of the very few early consoles to release more than a quarter of a century ago. Another system that was released shortly thereafter was the Atari. We got so many different games from Atari that almost every game we have could be said to be a rework of an old game found on there, but Atari was also kind of the reason why the game market crashed. You see, Atari was responsible for unleashing the horrible messes that people called games, such as Grab Your Lunch and E.T., with a bunch of titles you would expect from Flash games made for game development practice. They started out great and seemingly ended horribly, but it seems they actually didn’t die. This means they are one of the rare few companies that managed to survive the decade of nobody buying games.
Where has Atari been?
Occasionally, you might see their name in a game on the platform or on the mobile. Their flagship seems to be Roller Coaster Tycoon because they used to produce this back when I was a kid and it seems to have made its way on to the mobile platform while it had previously only been on the PC. However, they’ve been in such games as Alone in the Dark and Doom. They’ve been making games, a lot of games. The company has released over 2,600 game since its creation and it seems to be getting bigger as time continues without many actually recognizing they still exist.
What Saved Atari?
Pacman, Doom, Eve Online, and Roller Coaster Tycoon have been the prime factors of Atari’s saving grace. However, Pacman and Roller Coaster Tycoon have to be in the center of it all because Pacman and Roller Coaster Tycoon are the only lineages that I’ve seen that are past their third game for more than a decade. Recently, they’ve made big shots like The Witcher and Doom 4. It all boils down to careful decision making on the behalf of Atari that has brought them to this era and going with what works with their consumer base.
Atari Might Be Going Back To Its Roots?
Machinima released a video of the world’s first Pong Tournament, but not the Ping Pong like you would normally think about. Instead, it was Pong from Atari and it was in VR. The creator of Atari also created the company of Modal VR to get into the business and it was Modal VR that actually created the game needed for the tournament. Nolan Bushnell, the creator of Pong and Atari, allows for this game to be modified to work with Modal VR in order for this to happen but then he says something rather interesting.
“I’m involved with Modal because I feel like it represents the Pong Phase of Virtual Reality. What we can do is take classic games, new games and turn them into something magical.” – Nolan Bushnell
This is rather interesting because Atari’s “Big Time” generally happened with the Pong Phase, as Nolan Bushnell refers to. This is also where coincidences collide.
When Coincidences No Longer Are Coincidences
The odd thing about Atari is that their games are eerily similar to some of the first games we saw on the VR systems. Roller Coaster Simulator is an awful lot like the Roller Coaster that many beta testers were introduced to when games started rolling out for the Oculus. One of the biggest first person shooters was an undead shooter, which is also a lot like the Doom franchise. Nearly every one of Atari’s beginning games became some type of cult classic to those who played the original Atari.
What Atari Sees is A Big Market
There’s a choice to be made here and while one would result in the end of this article, I want to talk about the other one. The other one is that they take all their cult classics and turn each one into a VR game with revamped visuals. This is not particularly difficult since most of them were simplistic by nature and often played like arcade games, like the ones we find on both the mobile market and the PC VR market. This makes re-creating their games a viable premise for new games because they know that the cult classic lovers will also grab these just so that they can try to experience what they had in the beginning times. However, one thing stands true when you look at almost all of these games.
Atari VR Games Would All Be Physical and BIG
Atari’s games are all based on one of three principles: You are building something, You are getting something, or You are destroying something. There isn’t a single one where you are coloring something, being arts and crafty, or even just seeing what you can do in the environment like you can in a free roam game. All of them have a physical task associated with them and this makes Nolan Bushnell’s comment very promising for the VR fitness community.
Not only this, but the communities around them would be huge. There were millions who got their hands on the Atari and the games were selling like crazy in the early days because it was one of the only consoles out at that time before any serious competition came along. We’re talking about millions of cult classic fans that would be on the edge of their seat when they heard that their Atari games were “coming to life”. As kids they probably imagined being that character in the game and it was fun, which means they could live what they imagined all those years ago. The market for this would be huge, both in America and in the Asian culture because Atari games did not die in Asia. Asia was very careful in how they released their games, which is why game makers like Sega and Nintendo still exist even though they were hit hard a few times.
A Big Community Means More Involvement
Game makers are going after games that work on the console, which is why the fitness based game takes a hit. I mean, beyond DDR, what games do you know that were fitness focused that didn’t release with their console. That’s because you couldn’t really get physical back in those days. You could only find a small number of games and they usually fit one of three categories, it had a woman on the front to advertise to women, it involved hitting something, or it involved a gun. There weren’t really soccer games, American football games, or any other type of sport because they simply didn’t work well with that technology.
As big developers take note that companies are seeing opportunities in fitness and that such companies can actually stay alive, it begins to change the minds of the AAA companies about what games they can and cannot develop for VR. I’ve talked about how big VR Arcades could be before, but reworking old games to work with new technology could literally provide games that were popular, and physical, for decades. Atari could be releasing Pitfall with actual motion controls. Perhaps you could be Pacman in Pacman. Whether Atari is going to start rolling out old games or not is still not definitively answered, but the money that could be made suggests that Atari has reasonable cause to not say no.