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

Wednesday, 3rd 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.



  1. DUST3222

    @dave how about giving us video interviews when you sit down with the individuals it would be nice to know that words aren’t being minced at times. I prefer to watch or listen rather than read as do many other people thanks for taking this under consideration.

    #1 2 years ago
  2. Dave Cook

    @1 It’s because I’m based in Scotland and he’s based in the States dude, it’s logistically impossible for me to fly over there and speak with people, not to mention bank-breaking :P

    His words are verbatim as well, not minced at all. I don’t ever do that I can assure you.

    You may notice I do four features each week – mostly interviews – and I never spin news out of them as I hate twisting people’s words, absolutely cannot stand it. I probably should – because traffic – but I’d rather have integrity than go for cheap hits.

    Thanks for your input though, I really do appreciate it. I think more video chats among our team would be cool, but well see. We’re heading towards a new site too, so it’s something to consider certainly.

    Many thanks :D

    #2 2 years ago
  3. Francis O

    No, don’t twist people words, even for traffic it’s wrong.

    You’ll get the hits in the short-term, but in the long run websites who do this will be discredited and not taken seriously.

    That’s why I, and many people I know never go to Kotaku. VG247 is good most of the time. I like the way Dave does his interviews.

    Things are fine the way they are.

    #3 2 years ago
  4. Dave Cook

    @3 I won’t Francis, that’s what I said. It’ll never happen. Ever. I despise it :)

    I was saying that maybe we should do more videos with our team on Skype.

    #4 2 years ago
  5. manamana

    Dave, Dude, you come across as the perfect gamejournalist, it’s almost scary. You are constantly posting, making pieces, interviews and chatting to the community. You really are a great addition to this website.

    /tips hat

    #5 2 years ago
  6. Gheritt White

    I want to see Dave interview in the buff.

    #6 2 years ago
  7. Dave Cook

    @6 :O

    #7 2 years ago
  8. Dave Cook

    @5 Also, thank you very much :)

    #8 2 years ago
  9. kevinw729

    Thanks for the snapshot of the interview, will be an interesting read.

    Was working in Infogrames’ arcade division at the time of the Atari acquisition from Hasbro – a real mess and par-for-the-course with the then executive style that drove the company… into the ground. Think it would be good to look more at the Infogrames situation as so many of those executives now hold prominent positions within MS’ troubled Xbone undertaking?

    Remember talking to Nolan when he got involved briefly with the new company and his amazement at the incompetence and egos at play. It was amazing that these highly paid executives hoped to milk the IP of Atari to generate big salaries, while their incompetence meant they had not acquired all the Atari assets they thought they had!

    Always wondered why no game media reported the true story behind Atari/Infogrames crash – even reporting the auction has been lowkey – though there are all those skeletons over advertorials, such as with DRIVER, that may prove ‘uncomfortable’ to report!

    #9 2 years ago
  10. Neroist

    I bought A digital download from Atari once and will never do it again. It was NWN Diamond. When I went to check out they charged $3.00 for the download and had a check box asking if I would like to be able to download it again in 3 years. Of course I clicked yes encase I lost the media that held the 20 Gbs( why was it not compressed I can only guess). They tacked on another $3 just so I could be able to download it within 3 years. This is before the bankruptcy!
    They are they most nickle and dime company out there and trying to pop in hidden fees on digital downloads. Not only that it was they emailed me the keys only one time I said that they will never give them to me again.
    I bought NWN again digitally from Gamestop and it was cheaper. can download again anytime in the future from Gamestop. And the Gamestop copies had no License Keys to enter and keep up with or online verification.

    #10 2 years ago
  11. Cobra951

    Capitalism demands infinite growth. When companies go public, their sole reason for existence becomes growth. The stockholders who in effect bought the company expect a return on investment every year. Better games, and new IP only matter if they contribute to that yearly percentage increase. The only way to avoid this trap is to keep the company privately held.

    #11 2 years ago
  12. kevinw729

    @Cobra –
    That is the capital & demand argument. What we are discussing here is the fact that Infogrames / Atari was linked to irregular practices, some of which is still being investigated by the French judiciary and treasury. There is also question that the whole operation of this corporation and those associated with it were completely counter to any approach to capitalism and touch on practices that are being called into question by share, investor and executives – though this is still not proven as of yet.

    #12 2 years ago

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