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Atari and Namco Bandai – good news for all

So when someone says a big summer/Q4 blockbuster is delayed for ‘extra polish’ they mean ‘the game wasn’t ready for release next month, and we’ve wised up to that just in the nick time’.

Certainly, the games industry is no stranger to spin. Or in other words, untruths.

You might be tempted to think some of that lying went on when Atari/Infogrames, just a few months ago, told this publication how important retail was to its future plans and the growth of its distribution business… only to turn around, sell it all off and run for the online hills.

But really this new deal – which finally gives Namco Bandai a legitimate presence in Europe beyond non-entity co-publishing deals, among other things – is one of the rare instances where the games sector gets to have its cake and eat it.

The Phil Harrison and David Gardner-headed Atari (or whatever it will be called in future) can now forge a place at at the heart of the online world, but not at the expense of traditional distribution. On the flipside, projects like Ghostbusters, Tekken, Star Trek Online, Dead to Rights – and whatever the secret projects Atari London is creating – will find the right home, be that via retail or digital.

Historically, the games industry doesn’t manage transition that well – so however Namco Bandai and Atari deal with what happens next, they are sure to be closely watched.

As for the behind-the-scenes dealing that dismantled Empire… well, that’s harder to argue a legitimate defence for. In some instances you have to let the facts, and highly dubious quotes from ‘execs’, speak for themselves.

Stars in our eyes

In just a week, SingStar celebrates its fifth birthday. Since May 2004 this Sony title has reached out to millions of gamers and non-gamers around the world.

Not bad for an idea originally devised by a bunch of Londoners as ‘a weird animal karaoke game’.

Sure, the vast studio which the SingStar team is part of – Sony’s London Studio – might have dined out on that one franchise in recent years, but really the series’ achievements often go unacknowledged.

Long before the Nintendo Wii had people in old folks homes standing up and shaking their Remotes, Sony was engaging new audiences. As an entity the franchise must have generated in excess of half a billion pounds globally over its half-decade and well-priced 160 SKUs.

Plus, it laid the foundation for Rock Band and Guitar Hero.

So when you hear all the big corporate giants talk about chasing new audiences, ‘hybridised online/offline business models’ and the success of peripherals – remember that it was Sony and the Brits who got there first.

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