A post on GameInformer this morning reports that Atari, Inc.—the American company that many credit with making video games popular in the United States—has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. To keep the company moving, the post says that Atari is looking to sell off its assets, ranging from its many now-legendary game franchises—Pong, Asteroids, Centipede, Missile Command and Tempest—to even its logo. Though, I guess if it sells off its logo, it kind of won’t be Atari anymore, will it?
The post says that the bankruptcy filing is part of an attempt on the company’s part to “move away from its parent company, France’s Atari S.A.” So what does that all mean, really? Well, the thing to keep in mind is that the Atari, Inc. that’s filing for bankruptcy now is only kind of, sort of the company it used to be back in the ‘80s. In the late-1990s, Atari was bought by Hasbro Interactive, which was THEN bought by French video game publisher Infogrames.
Then in the early-2000s, Infogrames renamed its North American studio Atari, Inc. The Atari that was bought in the first place was, really, just a bunch of assets and IPs. In 2009, Infogrames changed its own name to Atari S.A…for some reason. Then in 2010, Atari founder Nolan Bushnell rejoined the company as a member of the board of directors.
So what the heck is Atari now anyway? Bushnell’s involved, so in some ways it’s come full circle, sort of becoming what it was once in the first place in that it’s got Bushnell involved in a major way. In other ways, it’s just a company that happens to have the name “Atari.” It’s not like we’ve all been buying many installments of Pong over the last three decades. It isn’t as though we all sit around talking about what a major force Atari has been in the industry lately. It’s not like Atari’s direction or the ways it may or may not have strayed from its roots has been a topic of conversation from anyone, anywhere.
Atari is, at this point, merely a brand—a point driven home by the fact that the company’s considering selling off the very logo itself. Without the logo that says “Atari,” it’s just another game company, isn’t it? And while it’s never good news that a company files for bankruptcy, is the latest in a long line of company configurations to bear the name “Atari” really worth mourning?