Monday, June 01, 2009

BPN 1349 Back to the future (1): Atari

These are strange times: the French video game publisher Infogrames will rebrand the company as Atari and the veteran online company AOL and book and magazine publisher Times Warner look like they will disassociate. This is going back to the future of the nineties: the Atari era was over and content factories were the forecasted money spinners.

It is strange to see the French video game publisher Infogrames going back to the name of Atari. Of course the holding company of Infogrames is Atari. But Atari was ‘old hat’ by the mid nineties.

Infogrames has a long history as games developer and publisher. It was started in 1983 by the French whiz kid Bruno Bonnell together with Christophe Sapet and Thomas Schmider and grew by acquisitions from 1996 to 2002. In 1997 it acquired Philips Media and its CD-I game heritage and sold out the stock Philips had built up in expectation of the world success of CD-I, that never came.

And by 2002 the company published the game Enter the Matrix, based on the movies of the Matrix. It was also the time that Infogrames holding company, IESA bought Atari and branded it Atari Interactive.

In 2009 Infogrames is making another business turn and is branded Atari. What a move! Will it work? To start with the last question: going back to such a classic name will that work at all. We have a comparable situation with Commodore. Some years ago the name of Commodore was bought by computer builder Tulip, who started to build modern variations of the famous Commodore 64 to be linked up to TV and including a joystick. It did not appeal and in 2004 the brand was sold to Yeahronimo, an online music shop, and used for music devices. These devices flopped in the market as did the online music shop. The only thing visible of Commodore at present is the logo on the facade of an office at Baarn, next to highway A1 in The Netherlands. The owners saw more of judges than of consumers over the years, fighting in court bankruptcies.

What will be the fate of Infogrames as Atari. Will they become the new jaguar under the game consoles or will Infogrames continue to sell games, but now under the brand Atari. Changing the brand name looks like a trade trick for a company in bad weather. Atari was the name for the excellent hardware, which was bundled with games. As Infogrames is not selling game consoles, it will use the name Atari for selling games. This coupled with the historical lack of name recognition of the present game generation, it looks like the newly branded company Atari will even faster meet its fate: bankruptcy.

Blog Posting Number: 1349


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