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Atari’s Online Revolution

Atari’s Online Revolution
There’s no doubting that user generated content is one of the most used phrases in media circles at the moment – everyone’s at it. MySpace and Bebo have that community thing going on, and even gaming media are getting involved – Eurogamer has launched its own community site last week, and with IGN’s ties to News Corporation – and thus MySpace – it doesn’t take a genius to work out they’ll be getting involved soon too.

Sony’s own take on the phenomenon has resulted in Home and LittleBigPlanet – and Microsoft has its own spin on it with the rather more complex, but nevertheless important, XNA Game Studio Express. And then there are Nintendo’s Miis and Everybody Votes channels. The list just keeps on growing.
Now Atari has an eye on its own user generated content site. And senior VP of Atari Online Entertainment Chris Bergstresser is certainly not afraid of talking it up.

What can you tell us about your new online project?

I think we have some things planned that are pretty revolutionary. It’s not going to be a virtual world like Home but we will allow users to completely craft their own experience. We want to get people involved by allowing them to play around. Users will be able to play around with development tools and create everything from very simple to very complex games.

Why are you taking such a radical new direction?

With the changing face of the video games industry we really need to turn it back on the users and ask them to define what they think is fun. For so long we have been saying ‘Look at these immersive environments’ and we’ve been cramming in polygons – I honestly think that people just want to go and have fun. This is where we’re missing the boat with female gamers too. I want to hop on, interact with people, maybe challenge someone to a game – but that doesn’t mean I just want to be a casual gamer, I just want a richer experience.

It’s really about crafting the experience around people’s lives – that includes their MySpace pages and their movies and music videos – everything they create for themselves. Everything people manufacture, Atari needs to embrace it. We feel that it comes down to allowing people to build their own relevant experience. Overall we’re pretty excited about it. In addition we will have a robust and unique casual games offering.

Do you plan to take the project onto other formats, and do you plan to launch elsewhere?

Let’s just say it will be PC to start with. I can’t and I won’t speak for Europe but presumably if it is a success in the US then yes, it will be coming to Europe. We would quickly open it up to other territories. The biggest problem is making sure it is localised and with relevant product and community issues, but that is all ahead of us.

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