Atari has a new CEO, a man by the name of Frederic Chesnais. Frederic is in a unique position as the CEO of Atari since the company is still, despite not having released a mainstream popular title in nearly 30 years, one of the most renowned game companies in the world.
Given that Atari still lives on as the definitive classic game console, Mr. Chesnais wants to revive Atari from obscurity and back into the hearts of the people of a modern generation – not just those over 25. Atari has changed hands many times since the glory days of the 2600 model with a joystick and one button, and Mr. Chesnais reflected upon these days as if they were never truly “Atari” as a company, and he plans to change all that starting now.
“Yeah…that is one of the challenges we face in the next five years and we need to re-position the brand…gear it more for the future. You know, Hasbro got it in the ’90s. Then Infogrames bought it [at the] end of the ’90s. Infogrames renamed itself Atari, but there was kind of, uh … no ‘real’ Atari. Frankly, the best Atari games were all released 30 years ago, right? So I think it is important that we re-position the brand with meaning, taking advantage of social features, online features — but this is not something that we can do in two months or three months.”
“It’s a positive brand, because we show it to everyone and it reminds them of something positive and the appeal of the logo … so for me it’s synonymous with … it is positive. It is fun. It is entertainment. And it is something that we like. Even if we don’t know what [Atari is]. I go through customs and immigration; they ask me … they [customs agents] say, ‘What do you do?’ ‘I do video games.’ ‘Okay. Which company?’ ‘Atari.’ ‘Ahh! Atari!’”
When discussing the future of Atari, Frederic mentioned that though the company is primarily a publisher, Atari could break back into the hardware space but they will leave consoles behind for the time being.
“It’s more than a software brand – it’s a hardware brand. I don’t want to say it’s a hardware brand first and foremost, but it is also a hardware brand. So we are carefully looking at…you know…we have a replica of the initial Atari 2600, but that is also something that we want to carefully announce in the course of the next few years, which is that with new licensing with the right partners we build the brand not only in the software space but also in the hardware space.”
While a replica of the 2600 may be a highlight for some consumers looking to relive the glory days of the 80’s, Atari won’t stop at the idea of just re-hashing old hardware back into the market – after all, you can purchase a games-included Atari right now at your local chain store for around $30.
“I’m not talking about a new console but, like, a watch. A gamified watch. It’s not what we are going to do, but think about that. Like a new type of watch is something we ‘could do.’ A watch, branded, where you don’t have an ‘ordinary watch.’”
“To give you another idea of something we could do, you have a jacket. We have a plug-in so you can power your iPhone or Android. You had a solar chip on your shoulder so that you power … so that you never run out of batteries. Things like this. Would you buy an Atari watch? Would you buy an Atari Jacket that you could plug and re-power your iPhone or whatever device you are using? I think you would…I think you would.”
“That’s what I mean by a lifestyle brand. So it’s more than just gaming. It goes beyond.”
Assuming that Frederic Chesnais’ stance on the company is serious, hardware provisions from Atari seem like the only solution that might enable their accessorized brand. Why would a gamer under 25 purchase a jacket with and Atari logo, when Nintendo is still thriving as a prevalent brand? Sure, a new jacket may be interesting, but that doesn’t put Atari out there doing much more than someone else has before. Given that Atari could step back into the hardware space, or go much beyond that into a new clothing line, where are you looking to see Atari move next?