Top 10 Game Publishers of All Time - #8 Atari

Coming in at #8 for top publisher is Atari.

Atari has a long and complicated history as a brand name being owned by several entities since its humble beginnings as Atari Inc. in 1972. Back then, Atari was of course famous for the development of video game consoles its most famous being the Atari 2600. Atari Inc. eventually became the Atari Corporation in 1984, after a video games crash in 1983 resulted in them being sold off to Tramel Technology. The failures of the Atari Lynx and Atari Jaguar consoles to gain market share resulted in the company being merged with a hard disk manufacturer in 1996. Atari wasn’t heard of until 1998 when Hasbro Interactive bought the Atari name and IP. Under Hasbro Interactive, Atari was known as Atari Interactive. In 2001, Infogrames took over Hasbro Interactive and Atari became Atari Inc. again. Atari Interactive however still existed as a separate entity. In 2009, Infogrames renamed itself to Atari SA which was now the new name for the parent company of Atari Inc. and Atari Interactive. So there were now three Ataris… any questions? Well I can’t be bothered answering them so tough bikkies :) (If you want to know more, read Wikipedia).

I bought my first Atari published game in 2004, when Infogrames was the name of Atari’s parent company. The game was the spiritual successor to Transport Tycoon known as Chris Sawyer’s Locomotion. Incidentally, it was around this time that Chris Sawyer started suing Atari for not paying him his fair share of royalties and now Chris Sawyer has disappeared.

The biggest franchises published by Atari would have to be Neverwinter Nights, Test Drive and The Witcher. Neverwinter Nights (2002) was a breakthrough RPG in that it provided modding tools to allow players to create their own adventures quite easily. While I never actually owned Neverwinter Nights or played it that much (which is why it will be excluded from my count) I did play its sequel in 2006, Neverwinter Nights 2 (NWN2), by Obsidian Entertainment. While NWN2 was panned by Neverwinter Nights purists, I actually liked the game as it had a stronger focus on the main plot and characterisation – similar to games like Knights of the Old Republic, Mass Effect or Dragon Age.

As I’m a fan of the Test Drive games from way back (my first experience was Test Drive III in 1990) I was quite excited when Test Drive Unlimited (2006) and then its sequel Test Drive Unlimited 2 (2011) were released. While the multiplayer was buggy in both games for us here in Australia, the ability to cruise around Oahu in a large number of classic licensed cars was a great experience.

I’ve yet to play the sequel to The Witcher (2007) but I was impressed by the original in that the consequences of your actions were only felt much later on in the story. The game also branded itself as an “adult” RPG by having lots of violence and nudity. While I don’t mind a game trying to appeal more to an adult audience, rewarding the player with trophy cards each time you slept with someone is a bit degrading to women methinks.

Other games that I’ve bought from Atari include Sid Meier’s Pirates! (2004), an update on Sid Meier’s classic swashbuckling adventure; Fahrenheit aka Indigo Prophecy (2005), an adventure game that allowed multiple paths to its conclusion; Driver: Parallel Lines (2006), an open-world GTA clone that had a funky soundtrack, and Ghostbusters: The Video Game (2009), which was apparently scripted by Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis.

While Atari has access to some interesting IP such as Neverwinter Nights and Test Drive, the upcoming releases don’t seem to interest me at all. For the Neverwinter Nights fans, we have a new game called Neverwinter which is in development. However it is going to be an MMORPG and it’s not part of the original Neverwinter Nights series. Also it doesn’t look like Atari is involved at all. For the Test Drive fans, a new game called Test Drive: Ferrari Legends is being released very soon. Of course, if you’re not a fan of Ferraris, this game is going to have limited appeal.