Atari

atari_official_logoParts of this article taken from Wikipedia.
Atari is a corporate and brand name owned by several entities since its inception in 1972, currently by Atari Interactive, a subsidiary of the French publisher Atari, SA (ASA). The original Atari, Inc. founded in 1972 by Nolan Bushnell and Ted Dabney was a pioneer in arcade games, home video game consoles, and home computers. The company’s products, such as Pong and the Atari 2600, helped define the electronic entertainment industry from the 1970s to the mid-1980s. In 1971, Nolan Bushnell and Ted Dabney founded an engineering firm, Syzygy Engineering, that designed and built Computer Space, the world’s first arcade video game, for Nutting Associates. On June 27, 1972 Atari, Inc. was incorporated and soon hired Al Alcorn as their first design engineer. Bushnell asked Alcorn produce an arcade version of the Magnavox Odyssey’s Tennis game, which would be named Pong. al alcornWhile Bushnell incorporated Atari in June 1972, Syzygy Company was never formally incorporated. Before Atari’s incorporation, Bushnell considered various terms from the game go, eventually choosing atari, referencing a position in the game when a group of stones is imminently in danger of being taken by one’s opponent. Atari was incorporated in the state of California on June 27, 1972.

In 1973, Atari secretly spawned a competitor called Kee Games, headed by Nolan’s next door neighbor Joe Keenan, to circumvent pinball distributors’ insistence on exclusive distribution deals; both Atari and Kee could market virtually the same game to different distributors, each getting an “exclusive” deal. Joe Keenan’s management of the subsidiary led to him being promoted president of Atari that same year.

In 1984, the original Atari Inc. was split and the arcade division was turned into Atari Games Inc. Atari Games received the rights to use the logo and brand name with appended text “Games” on arcade games, as well as rights to the original 1972–1984 arcade hardware properties. The Atari Consumer Electronics Division properties were in turn sold to Tramel Technology Ltd., which then renamed itself to Atari Corporation.

Atari VCS-2In 1976, Bushnell, through Grass Valley, CA firm Cyan Engineering, started development of a flexible console that was capable of playing the four existing Atari games. The result was the Atari Video Computer System, or VCS (later renamed 2600 when the 5200 was released). The introductory price of $199 (equivalent to $838 in 2016) included a console, two joysticks, a pair of paddles, and the Combat game cartridge. Bushnell knew he had another potential hit on his hands but bringing the machine to market would be extremely expensive.

Development of a successor to the 2600 started as soon as it shipped. The original team estimated the 2600 had a lifespan of about three years; it then set forth to build the most powerful machine possible within that time frame. Mid-way into their effort the home computer revolution took off, leading to the addition of a keyboard and features to produce the Atari 800 and its smaller sibling, the 400. The new machines had some success when they finally became available in quantity in 1980. From this platform Atari released their next-generation game console in 1982, the Atari 5200.

raymondkassarUnder Warner and Atari’s chairman and CEO, Raymond Kassar, the company achieved its greatest success, selling millions of 2600s and computers. At its peak, Atari accounted for a third of Warner’s annual income and was the fastest growing company in US history at the time.

July 1, 1984 Warner Communications sold the home computing and game console divisions of Atari to Jack Tramiel for $50 cash and $240 million in promissory notes and stocks, giving Warner a 20% stake in Atari Corporation who then used it to create a new company under the name Atari Corporation. Warner retained the arcade division, continuing it under the name Atari Games, but sold it to Namco in 1985.

In April 1985, they released the first update to the 8-bit computer line — the Atari 65XE, the Atari XE series. June 1985 saw the release of the Atari 130XE, Atari User Groups received early sneak-preview samples of the new Atari 520ST’s, and major retailer shipments hit store shelves in September 1985 of Atari’s new 32-bit Atari ST computers. In 1986, Atari launched two consoles designed under Warner — the Atari 2600jr and the Atari 7800 console (which saw limited release in 1984). Atari rebounded.

In 1989, Atari released the Atari Lynx, a handheld console with color graphics, to much fanfare. A shortage of parts kept the system from being released nationwide for the 1989 Christmas season, and the Lynx lost market share to Nintendo’s Game Boy.

In 1993, Atari positioned its Jaguar as the only 64-bit interactive media entertainment system available. It would be the last home console to be produced by Atari and the last to be produced by an American manufacturer until Microsoft’s introduction of the Xbox in 2001.

By 1996, a series of successful lawsuits had left Atari with millions of dollars in the bank, but the failure of the Lynx and Jaguar left Atari without a product to sell. Tramiel and his family also wanted out of the business. The result was a rapid succession of changes in ownership. In July 1996, Atari merged with JTS Inc., a short-lived maker of hard disk drives, to form JTS Corp. In 1998, Hasbro Interactive acquired all Atari Corporation related properties from JTS, creating a new subsidiary, Atari Interactive. Infogrames Entertainment bought Hasbro Interactive in 2001 and renamed it to Infogrames Interactive, and then to Atari Interactive in 2003. After IESA’s acquisition of Hasbro Interactive, Infogrames, Inc. intermittently published Atari branded titles for Infogrames Interactive.

In March 1998, JTS sold the Atari name and assets to Hasbro Interactive for $5 million—less than a fifth of what Warner Communications had paid 22 years earlier. This transaction primarily involved the brand and intellectual property, which now fell under the Atari Interactive division of Hasbro Interactive. The brand name changed hands again in December 2000 when French software publisher Infogrames took over Hasbro Interactive.

On May 7, 2003, Infogrames had its majority-owned, but discrete US subsidiary Infogrames NA officially renamed Atari, Inc., renamed its European operations to Atari Europe but kept the original name of the main company Infogrames Entertainment.

On December 9, 2008, Atari announced that it had acquired Cryptic Studios, a MMORPG developer.

In May 2009, Infogrames Entertainment SA, the parent company of Atari, and Atari Interactive, announced it would change its name to Atari SA.

georgeoppermanThe Atari logo was designed by George Opperman who was Atari’s first in-house graphic designer. The design is known as “Fuji” for its resemblance to the Japanese mountain, although the design’s origins are unrelated to it. Opperman designed the logo intending for the silhouette to look like the letter A as in Atari, and for its three “prongs” to resemble players and the midline of the “court” in company’s first hit game, Pong.