Make Your Own Version of Pong, (Maybe) Win $100,000 [UPDATE]

In honor of Pong's 40th anniversary, publisher Atari is now taking entries for what it calls the "Pong Indie Developer Challenge," it said today. For a shot at winning $100,000 and a publishing agreement with Atari, you can dream up your own version of Pong and draw up "at the very least" a design document.

You have until March 31 to submit your take on Pong, after which it will be judged by a panel including legendary Atari founder Nolan Bushnell. Three winners will get prize money and the chance to publish their games on the Apple Store.

At least one indie developer has a problem with the way Atari has approached this contest. International Game Developers Association Chair Brian Robbins wrote an article on Gamasutra today condemning the 40-year-old publisher for what he says appears to be a "thinly veiled [attempt] to snatch up great ideas on ridiculously bad terms."

Atari wins big as they get to cherry pick the very best ideas developers submit with absolutely no risk or costs. They then stand to make a huge profit on the resulting product long with terms that practically guarantee they will be profitable long before the developers see any sort of reasonable return for their efforts.

This kind of contest preys on developers who want to jump at the chance to work with a huge brand, and think it could be a great opportunity to make their big break. The reality is that the terms of this contest [exploit] developers and only provide benefit to the sponsors putting it on.

Update: Perhaps in response to Robbins's post, Atari sent us a statement late Tuesday night:

Pong Indie Developer Challenge was conceived as a way for the gaming community to celebrate Atari's and Pong's upcoming 40th anniversary. It is a great opportunity for indie developers to have a successful launch on a very competitive App Store by leveraging an iconic and well-known brand and tapping into a huge, passionate community. Our hope is that developers will not only see the value of cash prizes but also the chance to actually publish their own Pong under the Atari brand and with our full launch support. A successful launch is the ultimate chance for developers to show off their talent and creativity to the larger Atari and iOS community.

Pong Indie Developer Challenge is a contest with real cash prizes plus the ability to participate in revenue sharing from the first dollar. Winners will receive cash up front: $50k for 1st place, $37.5k for 2nd, $25k for third and up to seven runner-ups will grab $5k each. That prize money is not recouped against future royalties. Thus winners receive prize money up front, access to revenue sharing from first dollar and an opportunity to release a game alongside our other successful iOS titles

We look forward to seeing creative submissions and supporting the winners on the App Store.

Pong Indie Developer Challenge [Atari]

Why Atari's Pong Indie Developer Challenge is bad for developers [Gamasutra]