ATARI LIVE: 'Retail is still a priority'

Michael French
David Gardner and Phil Harrison today unveiled the full release schedule for their revamped Atari, telling attendant industry partners that it was still in the retail business, despite a long term aim to drive activity in the online space.

Earlier this year the publisher told MCV it would eventually emphasise online distribution over boxed product after selling part of its distribution business to Namco Bandai.

But at today's Atari Live event, the publisher's CEO and president together named some 14 games set to hit retail in 2009 - many of them in the first half of the year.

These include the already announced big licence titles Ghostbusters (confirmed for June) and Riddick.

The firm is also reading 360/PS3 racer Race Pro for January, new DS IP The Chase on Valentine's Day, February 14th, plus a big retail push for PC MMO Eve and the return of boxing IP Ready 2 Rumble to Wii in March.

A new version of The Witcher is also heading to stores along with Demigod, Heroes Over Europe, Codename Panzers: Code War, plus Namco Bandai's trio of Afro Samurai, Family Ski & Snowboard and Eternal Sonata.

The firm has also tempted Namco out of its publishing deal with Sony for Tekken, and will publish/distribute Tekken 6 for multiple platforms next year as well.

And in a nod to the ways Atari will, in Harrison's words, "bring products from the virtual space to the physical one", the publisher has prepared two releases that collate games previously sold online into compilations. These are Sam and Max: Season Two - compiling all the episodic releases - and Q3 (or Cubed), which boasts the XBLA titles made by famed designer Tetsuya Mizuguchi's Q Entertainment.

Gardner said that, despite recent comments by himself and Harrison about the rise of online distribution, "that doesn't mean Atari is not in the retail business. We have not excluded retailers."

"We provide world class distribution," he added, explaining that the 'new Atari' is bridging the gap between the physical retail space and the advancing online one, and offering developers a chance to get their products out as part of its global box-shifiting network: "At the core of that process are great producers of content."

Phil Harrison also took to the stage to talk attendees through all the upcoming products, saying "The developers are what it is all about."

He added that the firm is "aggressively hiring for all our studios" which includes French outfit Eden and a new studio in London.

Harrison also pointed out that products like EVE are enhancing the relationship retail has with online developers rather than choosing one or the other: "Online is an accelerator for growth in our market, especially retail boxed product. In future retailers can still sell boxes, but instead of selling data they could represent play time. That's a natural evolution of this industry and nothing to be afraid of."

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