Atari founder’s favourite game was ‘putting competitors out of business’

Monday, 6 August 2012 02:57 GMT By Brenna Hillier

Nolan Bushnell, the Atari founder credited with kicking off the games industry in the US, has confessed to deriving more pleasure from the business side of things than games themselves.

“The best game that I ever played at Atari was the game of putting my competitors out of business. I really turned out to be pretty good at that,” Bushnell told Eurogamer.

“You know, Atari didn’t ship the most Pong games. We were heavily copied. The good news was that anybody with a garage shop could make a Pong game – because that’s all I had. But later on everybody thought: we’ll just copy Atari stuff because they can’t build very fast,” he added, noting that copy-cats are a serious issue.

“We were always undercapitalised because nobody believed in video games. Did you know we were at 40 million sales before we got any venture capital? It’s crazy.”

The veteran designer said he’s not actually interested in entering the “red ocean” that is the modern games industry, but has some ideas for how he might do it.

“If I was to re-enter the industry today I would focus strictly on Augmented Reality,” he said.

“I like the idea of casual mesh networks actually. So, for example, you would be on a subway car with your iPhone. Can you create an app that sets up a quick mesh network that you can play a game on in 25 seconds? Those casual groups of strangers you pass in the physical space are very interesting in terms of games.”

Atari introduced some of the best-loved and longest-lived arcade games, and Bushnell said that’s an area that still interests him somewhat.

“I would love to design a new arcade. Arcades traditionally bridge the gap between technologies that were expensive and available in labs but not available commercially with the masses,” he said.

Bushnell also pitched a 45-minute role-playing game experience. The full feature, available through the link above, contains plenty of interest, including Nolan’s idea for a tongue-controlled keyboard so he doesn’t get tickets for texting while driving.