Daily Archives: June 4, 2020

Living off the Atari Name

Atari is a name that can turn on the fog machine of video game nostalgia for me.  From the early days of Pong and other arcade classics to the Atari 2600, the company was a big deal for me in the 70s and early 80s.  If things had worked out differently I would have even been pretty happy to get an Atari 800 computer rather than the Apple II I ended up with.

Lots of good memories and few bad ones at this point, though I will say that my 1983 Christmas wasn’t ruined by a rash of titles for the 2600 so badly received that Atari literally dug a whole in the ground to bury excess stock and caused the 1983 video game crash.  I was using an Apple II by then and barely noticed.

The company as I knew it was over, but the name still had value.  Jack Tammel bought it and made some pretty decent computers under the Atari ST logo and a couple of hand helds, the Atari Lynx and Jaguar.  But by then it was a off-brand, living on its past more than its present, and the name has been passed through various companies attempt to cash in on the name recognition it had.

One of the odd things about Nintendo and its complete failure to correctly gauge the popularity of its NES Classic machine a couple years back was that the owners of Atari have been making money off of retro games, in software and hardware form, for decades now.  It is a proven, evergreen concept, because they wouldn’t keep rolling out new variations and updated support if it wasn’t worth the effort.

But there is always somebody looking for a way to milk a little bit more out of the name.  Back in 2017 it was announced that there would be a new Atari VCS console.  While it certainly gets points for design, updating the classic 2600 console styling, it isn’t clear to me what the attraction is going to be aside from the classic Atari game which you can run on your PC already or on one of the many versions of retro consoles they have shipped over the years.  Destined for failure is all I can think, if it ever ships.

All of which leads me to the latest attempt to cash in on the Atari name.  No, not the proposed Atari Hotels, which I think would have fallen apart even without the current pandemic, but the Atari Casino.

Atari, Now with Gambling

I meant to write about this back in early April when I got the first press release, and I wish I had.  They had a bunch of crypto currency logos on their site, but they have since changed their mind I guess and are going all in on the Atari Token as the core of their operation.  After all, selling the chips and getting people to give them straight back to you is the simplest route to profit.  Their planned operations are listed as:

  • Casino and lottery games in virtual currency: primarily licensing
  • Casino and lottery games in real money: licensing or direct exploitation
  • Casino and lottery games in cryptocurrency: partnership with ICICB
  • We have also granted a license to Gametaco for eSports

People go around and around on pay to win and developer greed and whether or not loot boxes are gambling morally, legally, or both.  But this is a straight up drive to take a household brand and turn it into a vice.  As they say on the site:

Due to the borderless nature of cryptocurrencies, anyone can gamble anywhere. That’s a huge advantage for the players. Payouts arrive to the players in a much faster fashion, because crypto transactions are much faster than bank transfers. Because cryptocurrencies are more flexible than fiat, we are able to bypass some restriction that fiat currencies have and provide you with the best possible experience.

Basically, come launder your money here!

I expect that this will draw scrutiny of governments all over.  Complaining about lock boxes with “what about the children!” appeals gets you a few sound bites and some low effort responses.  But something that might keep a government from collecting taxes they feel they are owed… well, expect a legislative microscope up your ass.  Go ask Google and Facebook.  They EU can’t stop coming up with ways to try and shake them down for doing well.

I just wonder if this is going to kill the Atari name off as a brand with value or not.  Or maybe that has already happened and it is just people with misty water colored memories from 50 years back that still recognize the brand for what it once was.