Atari has been abused by a succession of shareholders, says founder

Wednesday, 3 July 2013 08:23 GMT By Dave Cook

Atari founder Nolan Bushnell has shared his thoughts on the collapse of the company and impending IP sale in a new VG247 interview, in which he said the company has been abused by a succession of shareholders more interested in growing fat off royalties than bringing it into the present with new IP.

As part of the interview – which you can read in full on VG247 soon – I asked Bushnell for his thoughts on Atari’s bankruptcy, and its impending IP sale this month. The company hopes to recoup some $22.2 million to help curb its loses. You can read up on the auction here.

Bushnell said of the matter, “Essentially … Atari has been really abused by a succession of shareholders who were really just interested in the royalty streams associated with the IP, but not really interested in the game business.

“If you really look at the stuff that … they wanted me on the board, I was on the board for a year, but it was clear that it was all about eyewash, it wasn’t about content, it wasn’t about trying to do something unique and interesting.

“It was just a case of them paying themselves large salaries and nursing the brand. I mean the brand took in $10 million in royalties every year just from t-shirts and sheets and peripherals and stuff like that, because the logo was strong. That didn’t mean the company had anything, it was just historical with no attempt to bring it into today.”

I then asked Bushnell about the state of the market today, with Atari collapsing, THQ dead and Zynga seemingly on a precipice. I suggested that often people often forget that there are livelihoods at stake and simply laugh at companies when things turn sour.

He replied in the case of Atari, “I agree, but in some cases it serves them right. I hate to see the brand be abused, but you just can’t continue to abuse something, and it’s like killing the goose that laid the golden egg.”

However, he concluded with a laugh, “It turns out a brand like Atari … it’s going to be hard to totally kill it.”

What do you think of Atari? Was the company simply living fat off its legacy for years? Will the brand ever truly die? Let us know what you think below, and stay tuned for my full interview with Bushnell soon.