Atari is skating on thin ice

Atari was once the king of the vidoegame industry. Even today, it would be mighty hard to find a gamer (or anyone for that matter) that doesn’t recognize the timeless Atari logo. These days, however, things aren’t so bright and sunny for the one-time master of the gaming world. Sales have gone steadily downhill for every Atari franchise and the company has flirted with bankruptcy on a number of occasions. It seemed that all was lost in the land that Pac-Man built, until just a short while ago when one of gaming’s most notorious figureheads made a move for a top position there. Mr. Phil Harrison, former head of Sony Worldwide Studios, jumped from an upswinging PS3 market to the all-but-dead publisher with only a couple prospects on deck.

Not much has changed since that move, and it is now a widely known fact that Atari needs to hit a home run just to stay afloat. In an industry filled with giants like EA and Activision, Atari needs to basically strike gaming gold to become relevant again. It seems that gamers aren’t the only ones that carry that opinion, as CEO of Atari’s parent company Infogrames feels the same way, “There are always competitor threats, because we can’t control the competition,” he explains “I think the steps that we have to take have to deliver – we don’t have a lot of room for mistakes, we’re threading the needle a little bit. When you’re smaller it’s just not as easy to recover when things don’t sell.”

One of the reasons that Harrison made the move to the floundering company was its friendly embrace of the online component of today’s games. Sony was notorious for being rather stubborn when it comes to online gaming and Harrison has always been a very outspoken supporter of bringing gamers together in the virtual space. Not surprisingly, Phil had something of his own to say about the online opportunities for the future, “One is that the Flash technology is getting better all the time, so there is just a rising tide that means in-browser doesn’t mean simple 2D any more. You can have 3D really immersive experiences.” He continues, “The second thing is for downloads that actually, clicking and buying, or trying and buying, and downloading – you have the rising tide of broadband speeds and the ubiquity of connections in the home. Both of those we can turn to our advantage.”

Atari is set to release Alone in the Dark this June, and it looks like it’s coming along pretty well. Will it be enough to save them, or is it just a last gasp of a desperate company? Only time will tell.