Atari, the classic game developer known for Tetris, Pong, and Pac-Man, has been relatively quiet for years, after it was bought by French company Infogrames in 2008, then filed for bankruptcy protection in 2013.
Now the brand is plotting a comeback that includes a new console, multiple cryptocurrencies, and blockchain gaming.
In October, Atari launched its Atari token (ATRI) through Bitcoin.com, after raising $1.5 million in a token pre-sale. The coin, built on the Ethereum blockchain, will have practical applications as in-game currency in Atari games, including in the online multiplayer game Karma the Game of Destiny. (A key regulatory issue in the ICO or “initial coin offering” boom in 2017 was that companies were launching tokens with no practical purpose beyond speculative investment.) Atari is also planning a separate Pong token, and aims to launch multiple NFT (non-fungible token) blockchain collectibles that showcase art from its games. (In sports, Major League Baseball and the National Basketball Association have launched similar blockchain collectibles.)
Atari’s new Atari VCS console is at the center of the blockchain push. The machine, a hybrid console and PC, comes with blockchain connectivity for online gaming and cryptocurrency spending. After delays caused by the pandemic, the console is shipping this month to early backers of its IndieGoGo campaign. Atari aims for mass production by January.
“Our goal is first and foremost to be on the blockchain, to offer as many games and interactive experiences as we can,” Atari CEO Fred Chesnais told Yahoo Finance Live on Tuesday. “As part of that, if you really want to have a chance in the long run, I believe you need to have your own utility token, and this is what we are doing... This is a space that I don’t want to ignore, because I believe this is a space that has tremendous potential.”
The only issue is that, for all the talk and hype around blockchain gaming, not much has happened yet in the space. Adoption can only move as quickly as the rails itself, and Ethereum is still advancing to become more user-friendly. (You might recall the infamous Ethereum transaction traffic jams caused by the popularity of CryptoKitties in 2017.)
A traditional video game console is easy to pick up and play. Blockchain gaming, and spending of in-game cryptocurrency, will come with a learning curve that could limit mainstream adoption.
There is a learning curve,” said Chesnais. “We are constrained by the existing limitations of the blockchain, the number of players and concurrent users you can have,”
“But at the end of the day,” he said, “we are all in this business because we believe we are going to find solutions. It’s such a lot of fun being able to play on the blockchain that we know this is going to work. Compare PlayStation 1 to the last version of the PlayStation – they have made tremendous progress. So we know it’s a technical issue, it just takes a little bit of time to get it all implemented. But at the end of the day, I think it’s worth the trip, it’s worth the experience, and for us it’s definitely worth the effort of trying to deliver something entertaining on the blockchain with the Atari token and the Atari brand.”
Daniel Roberts is an editor-at-large at Yahoo Finance and closely covers bitcoin and blockchain. Follow him on Twitter at @readDanwrite.