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Deep-dive Q&A: How Atari's new bosses plan to bring the company back from the brink

Hayden Dingman | Sept. 12, 2014
Atari is still a name that everyone--even those outside of the games industry--seems to know.

So it's games, casino gaming or gambling, and then licensing. We've been absent for at least eighteen months. Atari filed for bankruptcy in January. It's over, it's behind us, and now we're very pleased to bring the games. That's very exciting.

Todd Shallbetter (TS), COO of Atari: And I think, to the "Why now?" part — as Fred said, he came back and kind of rescued the company frankly and gave us this opportunity to be completely scaled. We have a very experienced core team, and it affords us the opportunity to take this catalogue of over 220 trademarked Atari [intellectual properties]...the sky's the limit when you start with that sort of resource.

Fred came in, we're recapitalized, we have a great nimble team, a very creative team, an aggressive and hungry team. In this space it's certainly a departure from the publisher models of past. It affords us the opportunity to really exploit these IPs.

FC: When Todd says we are organized differently, it's true. Our business has changed dramatically during the last fifteen years. Fifteen years ago, even in just the PC world, you had to have a box, you had to have distributors all over the place. It was very expensive to make a game. Today we can just do a game and distribute it ourselves or with the help of great partners such as Steam.

And production has changed as well. I come from a world where I think the business model of the motion picture industry is really relevant, because we're all doing entertainment. The model where you have, like a movie production studio, where you have the executive production, the brand, the marketing, you don't want to have all those stages inside your own company. So what do you do? You go to the best.

We do the same. We go to the best studios and we try to make the best games, but after that we stay very nimble. If there's another opportunity we'll go to another studio that's maybe the best at what it's doing.

So I think the organization is today very focused and very limited to the core team and the core experience. After that we go to the best guys to have the best games. You cannot have all the Spielbergs of the world inside your own studio. It's just impossible. But what you can do is try to find them and work with each other.

How do you move Atari forward and not just rely on the back catalogue of 220 IPs and the accompanying nostalgia?

FC: First, in the game world we are creating new IPs. The new one that's been announced is a game for the LGBT community called Pridefest. That's part of the DNA of Atari — to invent, to go after new audiences and reach to a lot of new people and new gamers. It's also part of my DNA because when I left Atari I went out on my own and created fitness games for the Wii and the Wii Balance Board.


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