DDGC - The Atari Situation Part 3

March 02, 2006

Before I finish The Atari Situation, I'd like to note that while I am an ex-employee of the company, I am not a bitter ex-employee. I am a disappointed ex-employee, who thinks things could have been / should be done a lot better.

Atari is a company that makes a bit of money on the publishing side but not so much money on the developing side. The people who make the money get to make the decisions, because after all, they're smart enough to make the money that pays everyone else. So, Atari is run by marketing people and accountants. They are good at projecting profits. They are not good at managing development studios. They only see the bottom line. This is why they spend something some ungodly amount on DRIV3R - partly based on the money that the Driver series has made, and the fact that the game had sucked up 3-ish years of development costs which had to be recouped. In the same way, they paid $47 million for Shiny (or rather The Matrix license) because the two Matrix film sequels looked like they were going to be massive blockbusters. Notice that they don't actually care about quality or even have faith in the team's abilities (the latter is somewhat of a blessing for the studio involved though, as they continually rake in cash without any need to actually show anything for it). Another point to note: Enter the Matrix was originally supported by Microsoft, who withdrew for quality reasons...

So the bigwigs at Atari continue to look for "the big buck". If the money isn't made, it's a lost cause and it is abandoned like an unwanted pet at Christmas. They don't care about how much money was spent making the game in the first place, nor do they care about the experience and technology gained in the process. Of course, this may not be entirely their fault - after all, they have been constantly in debt since the massive millennium expansion. Their focus was never to make good games, but to instead make the payments on their loans. Atari, Infogrames, probably bit off more than they should have. In any case, the fact remains: their priorities were wrong. Had they focused on pushing the good quality titles that Atari made during the past couple of years, as opposed to all-or-nothing bets on high profile turkeys, they might have built a reputation for solid games instead of over-hyped buggy non-starters. And as Nintendo (amongst others) has shown, quality can make you a lot of cash.

I hope Atari pulls out of this mess, for the sake of my ex-colleagues at Melbourne House. But it ain't gonna happen unless they really change their approach to this thing called Games. They just don't know what they are doing, or even have an ideology on which to base their decisions.
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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

hey where I can read the other parts of this article? (i searched but couldn't find them)