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Atari is a company and product name with changing names in the field of entertainment electronics and computer games .

The first bearer of this name, the American consumer electronics company Atari, Inc. , was founded on June 27, 1972 by Nolan Bushnell and Ted Dabney and is regarded as the technological nucleus and pioneer of many developments in the communications industry today. In the early to mid-1980s, the now internationally operating company rose to become the largest developer and manufacturer of video games for arcade machines , home video game systems (e.g. Atari VCS 2600 ) and home computers .

After the economic collapse of the North American video game industry , Atari, Inc. , which had since been taken over by Warner Communications , was split up in 1984 into the arcade games and consumer electronics sectors. The arcade division was continued separately by Warner under the name Atari Games, Inc. and existed under this name and with changing owners until 1998. The consumer electronics division, however, was sold by Warner to Commodore founder Jack Tramiel . The new Atari Corporation successfully shifted the focus of its products to the home market with the introduction of the ST series of computers . From the beginning of the 1990s, however, the company suffered a drastic drop in sales and profits; In 1996 the last remaining departments were dissolved and the company merged with the hard drive manufacturer JT Storage .

In 1998, Hasbro took over the trademark rights of Atari Corporation from JT Storage and limited itself to the development of computer games under the Atari Interactive label . In 2001 Hasbro Interactive together with Atari Interactive and the Atari trademark rights were transferred to the French group Infogrames . From 2003 he published his computer games through his renamed subsidiary Atari, Inc. (formerly GT Interactive ) and has been operating under the name Atari SA since 2009 .

History of Atari as a company name

Atari, Inc. (1972-1984)

Logo of the original Atari, Inc. and Atari Corporation

The early years

In 1972 Nolan Bushnell and Ted Dabney founded Atari in California . The term “ Atari ” was borrowed from the vocabulary of the Go game ; later the logo in the form of the stylized Japanese mountain Fuji was added. The company name Syzygy originally planned by Bushnell had already been used elsewhere.

Inspired by the mainframe game Spacewar, which is popular among students ! Bushnell and Dabney developed a slot machine game called Computer Space in the early 1970s , although this project was not a commercial success due to the cumbersome controls. The economic breakthrough came with a Pong machine and the home version in the form of a stationary device that can be connected to the television. This pong console marked the beginning of the commercial video game era.

In 1975, Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak , who later co-founded Apple Computer , worked for Atari for a short time. Under her leadership, u. a. an improved Pong home console (with a minimum of transistors ) and the video game Breakout . From 1976, Atari developers worked on completing the revolutionary video game system, code-named Stella (later marketed as the Atari VCS 2600 ). The lack of equity to cover the development costs resulted in the sale of Atari to Warner Communications in October 1976 to 28 million US dollars .

Warner Communications and Atari

In 1978 Nolan Bushnell left Atari and was replaced by textile manager and marketing specialist Ray Kassar . In the two years that followed, numerous studies were carried out on home computers and various video game consoles, and some prototypes were brought to production maturity. 1979 began the production and sale of the first Atari home computers and the Atari VCS 2600 video game console, which soon became bestsellers. During this time, the first arcade machines with vector screens ( Lunar Lander , 1979) and, with Battlezone (1980), a completely new genre of games: the so-called first-person shooter .

In 1980, due to disagreements with management, programmers David Crane , Larry Kaplan , Alan Miller and Bob Whitehead separated from Atari to form Activision on April 25, 1980 . In 1981, Jay Miner , the chief developer of the home computer department, turned his back on Atari and founded the Amiga company to pursue his own projects, which he found impossible to realize under Atari's leadership.

A stock market scandal in December 1982 forced Ray Kassar to resign on July 7, 1983. Working with Jay Miner and its company Amiga was under the leadership of his successor James Morgan amplified to the joint design of the so-called Lorraine project , one on the Motorola 68000 - CPU based home computer system. This should expand the XL series by a new 16-bit model series. The contract between the two companies provided for delivery of the Lorraine chipset by the end of June 1984. After good business success in the video game market, the first serious crisis soon arose - in 1983 Atari made an operating loss of 536 million US dollars. As a result, Warner Communications sought to sell Atari's loss-making company sections and, on July 2, 1984, found a buyer for the troubled home computer division in Jack Tramiel, who had recently been dismissed from Commodore. Tramiel tried to finally buy Amiga with his company "Tramiel Technologies Ltd." already since March. Shortly before the end of the 24-hour period, Commodore (under Irving Gould ) offered almost double the sum offered by Tramiel and won the bid. After the company Commodore had gained the majority of shares in the company Amiga , the Lorraine project was initially renamed Amiga, then renamed Amiga 1000 with the appearance of further, compatible models .

Atari Games (1984-2003)

Logo from Atari Games (1984-2003)

Atari's department for arcade machines remained with Warner Communications, but now under the name Atari Games Corporation. The contract between Warner and Jack Tramiels Atari Corporation stipulated that the company would only be allowed to publish arcade games under the old Atari logo and only ever with the games extension. But in 1985 Warner sold 60% of the company to the Japanese game manufacturer Namco . After two years, Namco again sold 20% of the shares back to Warner and a group of employees under Managing Director Hideyuki Nakajima. Nakajima also brought the company's games back to game consoles, but under the company name Tengen due to the restriction of Atari naming rights.

For the period up to around 1991 Atari Games was considered one of the most creative developers of arcade games, including titles such as Marble Madness , Gauntlet , Rampart and Paperboy . Atari Games also had two legal disputes with the Japanese console manufacturer Nintendo, when Tengen tried to circumvent Nintendo's licensing procedures for NES games and the strict guidelines for third-party manufacturers, and because of a trademark dispute over the game Tetris . In both cases, Atari Games emerged as the loser from the litigation and had to pay compensation or destroy its own goods. From 1992, Atari Games was also able to assert itself less and less against the competition with its Beat 'em ups (including Street Fighter ). To make matters worse, the North American market for arcade games continued to shrink.

In 1993 Warner again took over the majority of Atari Games , meanwhile merged to Time Warner , and in 1994 merged it together with Tengen to form Time Warner Interactive. In 1996 Time Warner sold the company to WMS Industries , which operated the studio again under the traditional name Atari Games and assigned it to the Midway Games division , which is focused on computer games . They went public at the end of 1996, and in 1998 WMS sold the remaining shares in Midway Games. In the same year 1998, Atari Games was renamed Midway Games West, but published games under the old logo until 1999, the last title being San Francisco Rush 2049 . In 2001, Midway left the arcade machine business. In 2003 the Midway Games was finally dissolved. After Midway's bankruptcy and busting, numerous trademark and name rights, including those to Atari Games, went to Time Warner's new computer game subsidiary, Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment .

Atari Corporation (1984-1996)

The Tramiel era

Under Jack Tramiels aegis was from Shiraz Shivji which Tramiel was followed by Commodore to Atari, the Atari ST brought in just five months to prototype maturity and in January 1985 at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas as Atari 130st and 520ST of Presented to the public. In April, the first 520ST computers were produced and shipped in large numbers. The 520ST should enjoy great popularity in the next few years, mainly due to its integrated MIDI interface, especially in the field of professional music production . By 1993, the range of products was expanded to include a number of ST models and operating system versions ( TOS ) in order to be able to meet other requirements of the home computer market, such as the option of operating on a television at home.

From the 1990s, Atari lost crucial market shares to the providers of personal computers due to poor processing quality and controversial corporate policy decisions under Tramiel . After CeBIT 1992 , for example, this led to a large wave of layoffs at the Atari Germany branch and shortly afterwards to the withdrawal from other European countries to the Netherlands, from where sales mainly to Eastern Europe were maintained.

Merger with JTS: the end

In November 1993, Atari Corp. started Another product offensive in the video game segment with the Jaguar video game console. However, the sales figures fell short of expectations and development costs and drained the financial reserves. In January 1996, Atari Corp. the establishment of the subsidiary Atari Interactive known, which should be responsible for the development of computer games for PC. But just a month later, Atari Corp. a merger agreement with the hard drive manufacturer JTS, Inc. (Jugi Tandon Storage, a subsidiary of the Tandon Corporation ) and heralded the end of the video game manufacturer. Atari stopped its business activities and 80% of the workforce was laid off. After approval by the shareholders, Atari Corp. merged. and JTS, Inc. on July 30, 1996 to JTS Corp. The new company was led by executives from JTS, Inc. and had no intentions to continue the gaming business. The main reason for the merger was believed to be that JTS, Inc. was trying to get Atari's cash reserves in this way.

Atari Interactive: brand revival under Hasbro (1998-2001)

After all development departments of Atari Corp. had been closed, the Atari product portfolio and the trademark rights were successively sold. On February 23, 1998, the remaining rights to Atari's software, hardware and the Atari brand itself went to the financially troubled JTS Corp. for five million US dollars. to the HIAC XI Corp. über, a 100% subsidiary of the game software manufacturer Hasbro Interactive , which in turn belonged to the games company Hasbro . JTS filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on December 4, 1998 ; on January 29, 1999, a court order ordered the liquidation of the company under Chapter 7 . After taking over the rights, Hasbro Interactive published former Atari games such as Pong or Centipede for Windows PCs and Sony PlayStation under the name Atari Interactive .

In January 2001, French computer game maker Infogrames acquired Hasbro's entire computer game division, including Hasbro Interactive, MicroProse, and Atari Interactive, which continued to hold Atari trademarks, for $ 100 million . From November 2001, Infogrames began to use the brand name of its new subsidiary increasingly for its own company activities.

Atari, Inc. and Atari SA: A global publisher (since 2003)

Logo of Atari, Inc. and Atari SA since 2003

The development departments called Hasbro Interactive, which was taken over by Hasbro, were renamed to Atari Interactive after a brief change of name to Infogrames Interactive. In addition, the American publishing subsidiary Infogrames Inc. (formerly GT Interactive ) , which had previously belonged to Infogrames, used the name as a label for its product publications, before finally renaming itself to Atari Inc. in the second quarter of 2003. Infograme's games division in Europe has since operated under the same name as Atari Europe, the British subsidiary as Atari UK. The company did the same with other business areas, all of which, however, remained under the management of the group holding company, Infogrames SA. The business activities were limited exclusively to the production and distribution of game software. It was not until 2005 that the new Atari tied back to its hardware tradition with the retro Atari Flashback game console .

At the beginning of April 2007, the company reacted to declining sales and announced that around 20% of its employees were resigning.

In November 2007, Atari USA announced that it would limit its sales to North America, which should save jobs in the USA. Atari Europe was doing well to very well financially at the time.

Atari tried to take legal action against reports in online media.

In May 2009 it became known that Atari wanted to finally withdraw from Europe in order to concentrate more on the online area and in particular only on the North American market. This went hand in hand with the gradual takeover of the Atari Europe distribution business by the Japanese publisher Namco Bandai Games , who used the facilities under a new name to sell and market their own games in Europe. Also in 2009, the group holding company Infogrames SA changed its name to Atari SA.

Despite the restructuring in the company profile, Atari's own studio Eden Games was closed in mid-May 2012 with immediate effect.

On January 21, 2013, the US division Atari Inc. filed for bankruptcy, but was able to leave it behind under new management and with an insolvency plan on its own.

The company is also aiming for a return to the hardware business. In 2017 Atari announced a new console. At the end of May 2018, a crowdfunding campaign was finally started for the device, the Atari VCS, which brought in around two million dollars on the first day. The publication date is July 2019. It is intended primarily for retro and indie games.

Video game consoles

Stationary consoles

Portable video game consoles

Concept studies in the prototype stage

  • Atari 2000 "Val" (1981)
  • Atari 2200 "Bonnie" (1983) - 1986 as Atari 2600jr. published
  • Atari 2500 (1981)
  • Atari 2700 "RC Stella" (1982)
  • Atari 3000 "Graduate Computer" (1983)
  • Atari 3200 "Video System X" (1982) - released in 1982 as Atari 5200
  • Atari 3600 "Maria" (1983) - published in 1986 as Atari 7800
  • Atari Panther (1991)
  • Atari JagDuo (1995)
  • Atari Jaguar 2 (1996)

Home computers

With MOS-6502-CPU (8-bit systems)

6502 processor

  • Atari 400 and Atari 800 (1979)
  • Atari 1200 XL (1983) sold in the US only
  • Atari 600 XL, Atari 800 XL (1983)
  • Atari 65 XE, 130 XE (1985) and 800XE
  • Atari XE Game System (1987)

With Motorola 680X0 CPU (16-bit systems)

68000 processor

  • Atari 260 ST, STD, STFM (June 1985)
  • Atari 520 ST, ST +, STM, STF, STFM (1985/1986)
  • Atari 1040 STF, STFM (1986)
  • Atari Mega ST 1, 2 and 4 (1987)
  • Atari 1040 STE , 520 STE, 4160 STE (1989)
  • Atari Stacy (1989, portable device)
  • Atari MegaSTE (1991)
  • Atari ST Book (1992, portable device, sold in small numbers - approx. 1000 units)

Intel 8088 processor

Other processors (32-bit systems)

PC / IBM compatible devices

From 1987 to 1991 Atari also produced IBM-compatible PCs.

  • PC1, PC2, PC3, PC4, PC5
  • ABC 286/30, ABC 386SX II, ABC 386DX II, ABC N386SX
  • Atari Portfolio (1989, portable device)

Web links

Commons : Atari  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Online museums and archives

  • Atari Museum - Complete documentation of all Atari computers and video game consoles, including photos, development documents, prototypes and company information
  • - German-language online museum
  • 8Bit-Museum - Online museum about 8-bit computers and related technology
  • AtariMania - Extensive program archive (English)
  • EDV-US Museum - online museum about 8-bit and 16-bit computers and game consoles
  • Atarihistory Museum - English-language online museum mainly about game consoles but also computers. Many patent documents and other for download

Forums and portals

Individual evidence

  1. Time Warner to Sell Part Or All of Its Stake in Atari ( English ) In: The New York Times . March 25, 1995. Retrieved May 31, 2013.
  2. Kent, The Ultimate History of Video Games , pp. 371-372
  3. ^ A b John Harris: Game Design Essentials: 20 Atari Games ( English ) In: Gamasutra . UBM plc . May 30, 2008. Retrieved June 8, 2014.
  4. Kevin Bowen: Top Ten Atari Arcade Games ( English ) In: GameSpy . News Corp . February 23, 2003. Archived from the original on February 13, 2009. Retrieved June 8, 2014.
  5. Kent, The Ultimate History of Video Games , pp. 371-381
  6. ^ WMS Industries to Acquire Atari Games Corporation ,, March 5, 1996
  7. ^ Atari Games Sold to WMS Industries ,, March 8, 1996
  8. Midway Games Form S-3 to the US Securities and Exchange Commission dated November 27, 2001
  9. ^ Leonard Herman: Company Profile: Atari . In: Mark JP Wolf (Ed.): The video game explosion: a history from PONG to Playstation and beyond . ABC-CLIO, 2008, ISBN 978-0-313-33868-7 , pp. 61 ( limited preview in Google Book search).
  10. Asset Purchase Agreement Among Midway Games Inc. And The Other Sellers Listed On Schedule A Hereto, And Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. ,, May 20, 2009
  11. Sample Contracts - Agreement and Plan of Reorganization - Atari Corp. and JT Storage Inc.- Competitive Intelligence for Investors
  12. Brooke Shelby Biggs: 'Success' killed Pac-Man creator Atari . San Jose Business Journal . July 19, 1996. Retrieved August 15, 2009.
  13. ^ JTS Corp .: 8-K For 2/23/98 . JTS Corp. March 3, 1998. Retrieved August 15, 2009.
  14. ^ Marilyn Morgan: Opinion Granting Motion to Dismiss Fraudulent Transfer Complaint . United States Bankruptcy Court, Northern District of California. May 22, 2001. Retrieved August 15, 2009.
  15. ^ Company News; Hasbro Completes Sale Of Interactive Business - New York Times , New York Times. January 30, 2001. Retrieved November 2, 2009. 
  16. Infogrames: Infogrames Reinvents Atari With Shipment of MXrider, Splashdown For PlayStation 2 ( English ) In: Official press release . The Free Library. October 31, 2001. Retrieved August 17, 2012.
  17. Infogrames re-christens itself Atari ,, May 7, 2003
  18. ^ Julian Pohl: Atari - restructuring costs jobs. (No longer available online.), February 5, 2007, archived from the original on January 5, 2008 ; Retrieved July 12, 2009 .
  19. Christian Stöcker: Games industry puts the trade press under pressure. Spiegel Online , June 26, 2008, accessed July 12, 2009 .
  20. Atari demands deletion of negative reviews of the game Alone in the Dark. Heise online , June 22, 2008, accessed July 12, 2009 .
  21. Atari disappears from Europe. , May 14, 2009, accessed on July 12, 2009 .
  22. Atari Sheds Infogrames Branding: News from . Retrieved November 2, 2009.
  23. Atari closes Eden Games . Retrieved May 11, 2012.
  24. Atari files for bankruptcy in the US . Retrieved May 11, 2012.
  25. Alex Wawro: Atari's bankruptcy escape plan is court-approved ( English ) In: Gamasutra . UBM, plc . December 13, 2013. Retrieved February 20, 2014.
  26. Georg Pichler: Atari VCS: New console already a million-dollar success on the first day - In: The Standard. May 31, 2018, accessed June 1, 2018 .
  27. James Temperton: What makes the retro Ataribox console a disappointment. In: Wired . July 18, 2017. Retrieved July 25, 2017 .