The Metamorphosis of Atari

A little more than a year ago Atari snatched up Sony's Phil Harrison and went into a hibernation of sorts, cocooning itself away from the media as it and parent company Infogrames worked to reinvent itself.

Today the two companies are now a single, more streamlined publisher and developer working to strike a balance between creating new titles and resurrecting some of Atari's classics.

Gone are some games, gone is the name Infogrames and gone too is Harrison as president of the company. Now the charismatic Englishman will serve as the non-executive Director of the Group. While Jeff Lapin, formerly of THQ, has joined the board as Chief Operating Officer.

"Phil's had enormous impact and some of it has been painful for us to do," said David Gardner, CEO and director of Atari. "We needed to get rid old projects that weren't going to be viable, clean out the old IP portfolio and sign up new things.

"He's made a huge difference to us, but on the other hand we are mainly going to be in the U.S. and we are simplifying the business and structure."

Harrison is much happier to be on the board, Gardner said, adding that Harrison's family recently had a baby.

Part of that streamlining meant dumping a number of older games and reexamining what would work best for the company, Gardner said.

"We did cancel a number of projects throughout the year," he said "The company's focus is going to be less on trying to build another giant packaged good company and more on putting out products with a longer subscription model and more web-centric games. Games that take advantage of Atari's IP."

Recently acquired developer Cryptic will be working on a new massively multiplayer online game based on an IP that Atari already owns.

"We don't want to announce any products we are working on per say," he said. "We have a very valuable catalog of IP that for a long time haven't been exploited properly. Cryptic is very excited about developing them and are in the process of mocking up things and building prototypes so we can look at them and decide what to greenlight."

The key to Atari's success, though, will be in finding the right balance between new IP and reinvigorating classics.

"We are an IP owner," said Jim Wilson, CEO of Atari, Inc. in the U.S. "As an IP owner it is contingent for us to develop our IP."

Atari recently announced they wouldn't be exhibiting at E3, leading some to ponder the company's future line-up of games, past Ghostbusters and Champions Online.

Gardner said the decision was made because the games they have coming out don't really need the support of a booth at the show. Atari will be making some announcements soon about future titles.

"The decision was not about the money as an overall comment, it was always about the efficiency," Gardner said. "Atari doesn't need to be the trend-setter at E3. I'm very comfortable with the decision we made."

The most noticeable news coming out of Infogrames/Atari this morning was the decision to rename the company simply Atari, a decision that was easy to make but not as easy to implement, Gardner said.

"That's something we have been planning for awhile," Gardner said. "Things were messier than I liked when we arrived (at the company.) There was so much confusion about Atari and Infogrames, it was really impressive.

"Our goal was to get things massively streamlined over the year, which we have done."

But, Gardner added, the brand will mean nothing without the product to support it and Atari is hard at work making sure it does.