The return of Atari

Ben Parfitt
The return of Atari
At the very end of 2007 Infogrames was rejuvenated via a e150 million financial injection from BlueBay Asset Management, a move which granted it an increased degree of financial freedom to reinvigorate its publishing business.

It wasn’t the first time BlueBay had invested in the firm – a series of financial investments in the past had given it a 25 per cent ownership of Infogrames. However this latest big money move will give it a 59.8 per cent holding if the convertible bonds are fully transferred into shares, making it the largest single shareholder.

MCV recently revealed Infogrames’ intention to use this financial leg-up to aggressively drive its publishing operation and use the strength and history of the Atari brand to bring it back to the premier leagues of the international video games business.

Following the €150 million bond which was invested in Infogrames, what can we expect in 2008?

Infogrames has plans to greatly reinforce its publishing business this year. The group is working hard to rebuild its creative potential – creativity is something that runs deep here. We will be re-launching classics and new properties targeted at key gaming communities. Re-launching Alone in the Dark is a bold and very promising project coming to at least seven platforms.

My Horse and Me, a new franchise, has found its place on the market. We will be re-launching the franchise next year on at least five platforms. Additionally the group is planning to harness the video game market metamorphosis, that’s to say the new platforms and, especially, the new gamer categories.

Will Atari be looking to expand its product range to encompass more mainstream gaming?

The brand’s potential can embody and support the new gaming patterns and the group will spend the coming few months developing – and indeed focusing on – mainstream, gamer-friendly and fun, as well as groundbreaking and trendsetting concepts. Atari games have to be the sort of games families, casual gamers and hardcore gamers enjoy.

They have to boast cult appeal, be attractive to more women, and accommodate every age group. So we will be offering several mass-market licences for DS and Wii platforms and, in certain cases, casual-online versions. The list here includes, amongst others, Asterix, Lucky Luke, and the Humongous licences that are very popular in the US (Backyard Sports) and Northern Europe (Putput and Freddy Fish, for example).

We are also planning to develop several new concepts addressing identified consumer communities’ interests, with games based on their everyday interests (travelling, cooking, learning foreign languages, finding romance, and so on).

Around ten titles are expected to be available in 2008 as casual-online versions, including adapted and revamped versions of traditional properties, as well as new game types. On top of this we will of course also be concentrating on developing our other key franchises such as Test Drive.

Will you be looking to expand your development base?

We are building a network of partner studios with the aim of establishing lasting ties that will boost our initiatives. We are looking to work with more than 30 studios in 2008, employing about 1,000 people between them. We’ll also be making full use of the internal know-how of Eden Games, especially in connection with historical franchises such as in the racing genre, with Test Drive for example, and also concepts based on their proven MMO technology which helped make Test Drive Unlimited such a great success.

Will you be ramping up the volume of titles Atari publishes?

Atari Group has the resources it needs to finance its projects and will be especially intent on project profitability and therefore quality. We are expecting to double the number of group products between 2007 and 2008. We will be offering more than 15 Group products on new-generation platforms (Xbox 360, PS3 and Wii) in 2008. The list includes Alone in the Dark, Legendary: The Box and other titles which will be announced in due course.

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