Atari is 40
This is something of a bittersweet anniversary celebration. Sure, the first videogame company was founded 40 years ago (and don’t give me that crap about Nintendo being 150 years old or whatever, because they were still making playing cards and running
sketchy, by the hour flophouses love hotels), but today should be more of a memorial than a celebration.
After all, the real Atari died in 1996. After the failure of the Jaguar, Atari sold out to a short lived hard drive manufacturer. A couple years after that, Hasbro (the board game and toy mega-corp that also now owns Wizards of the Coast and TSR), bought the rights to Atari’s name and games, thus all those weird remakes and updates (Pong: The Next Level?) in the late ’90s. A few years after that, Hasbro was hard up for cash and sold all their Atari stuff to French publisher Infogrames. Realizing that they now owned one of the most recognizable and beloved names (and logos) from a whole generation of American consumers (and that their name was stupid and lame), they rebranded themselves as Atari.
In fact, the longest lasting branch of “old” Atari was their arcade division. It ended up as part of Midway, and was responsible for classics like Area 51, San Francisco Rush, and Primal Rage. Ok, maybe classic is pushing it a bit with Primal Rage, but it’s Mortal Kombat with dinosaurs. Come on.
Anyway, in 2003 someone reminded Midway that arcades in America had been dead for years, so the last remaining piece of one of gaming’s most recognizable companies shut its doors for good.
So happy birthday Atari. You are missed.
For extra reading on the topic of the meteoric rise and spectacular fall of one of gaming’s most important companies, I recommend Steven Kent’s excellent (if awkwardly renamed by his publisher) The Ultimate History of Video Games. I’ve also heard good things about Phoenix: The Rise and Fall of Videogames (Ha! See? One word!) but haven’t had a chance to check it out yet myself.