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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.

Atari is still a name that everyone — even those outside of the games industry — seems to know.

And yet for most people the name is synonymous with a period of gaming that's long gone. Atari conjures up images of wood-clad consoles and dingy, neon-lit arcades. Oh, and a bunch of ET cartridges buried in the New Mexican desert.

That's a bit unfair, seeing as the company put out a semi-steady stream of games after that period passed away. It wasn't enough, though, and Atari recently filed for bankruptcy. It was in this most dire of times that gaming's progenitor was rescued by former employee Fred Chesnais, now CEO of Atari.

Atari under Chesnais is a revitalized company. There's an Alone in the Dark reboot in the works, as well as a proper PC successor to Rollercoaster Tycoon 3. And...a new version of Asteroids?

I sat down with Chesnais and Atari COO Todd Shallbetter recently to discuss Atari's new strategy, where the two see the company heading, and a ton of other topics. The full transcript is below.

PCWorld: Why make a big games push with Atari again?

Frederic Chesnais (FC), CEO of Atari: First, Atari's been here for a long time. I think the team today has been here for about ten years on average, if not more. I was CEO/COO of many divisions and entities of the group fifteen years ago. I stayed there for eight years, I left, created my own games. Then when Atari filed for bankruptcy I decided to buy it back, so to say.

It's not really "Why now?" It's more like, "What happened during the five or six years during which Atari was still doing games, but maybe was not as present or was doing other types of games?"

Now we're back trying to be really relevant in the PC world. Why PC? Because I think it is the best platform. It's the most open. You can reach out to a lot of people. It's very flexible. And for the last few years I've been doing a lot of PC games myself, so for me it was natural. When you look at the franchises we have, such as Rollercoaster Tycoon — yeah, it's a PC game, it'll be released on PC again with the new one. For me it was really obvious as the first choice for the big game for the comeback of Atari.

At the same time we are also pushing in other directions. It's not just about games. We also do licensing, so we are launching Atari Flashback, which is a replica of the original Atari 2600. And there will be more. We're also launching two casino platforms, one that is for real money outside of the US and in selected states in the US, and then we have a social casino that will be virtual money.

 

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