Pioneering video game-maker Atari SA is looking to mobile apps to finally help the company make a return to prominence, another sign of how the mobile platform is shaking up the gaming industry.
The French-owned, Los Angeles-based company is reviving in social gaming form the classic software titles, including “Pong,” “Battlezone” and “Asteroids,” on which it made its name in the early 1980s. Atari recently launched in Apple’s App Store a couple apps bundling digital versions of its classic games, with modern twists, such as allowing players to compare their scores against others.
It’s also developing new titles specifically for Apple’s mobile devices, including the puzzle game “I Love Strawberries” for iOS.
“We see a great opportunity to deliver Atari’s classic properties in their original form to a large fan base, from the older casual games player to the fanboy gamer,” says Jim Wilson, Atari’s chief executive.
Atari’s move to the social gaming business follows related developments by even those, such as Sony and Microsoft, which effectively pushed the company out of the console gaming market it had popularised by offering more sophisticated experiences.
Electronic Arts — maker of long-running games “Sims,” “Battlefield” as well as “Harry Potter” — recently began a mobile and social strategy to make up for slumping sales, including purchasing Chillingo, publisher of “Angry Birds.” And both Nintendo and Sony are hoping to stand out by offering new gaming devices that offer functions mobile phones cannot, such as Nintendo’s 3D game player.
But Atari is instead working to enhance mobile devices’ capabilities. For example, it’s working with Discover Bay Games to develop a joystick accessory for iPads, turning the mobile device into a mini-arcade when playing its games. The accessory is expected to cost between $30 and $70.
Ultimately, Atari’s efforts are another step recognising that mobile devices
appear to be the future of handheld gaming. The Guinness Book of World Records
has named Apple’s iPhone 4 the fastest-selling portable gaming device in history. If they are to survive in an increasingly mobile-dominated gaming market, game-makers such as Nintendo and Sony will need to offer a truly compact gaming device, or — reflecting the fact that mobile games are much cheaper than traditional console games — offer games with even more compact prices.
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