A long, long time ago, Atari was king of the gaming world. It was the manufacturer of the first mainstream home video game console and was making a ton of money. That was until the video game crash of the 80s. Even though Atari was king of the world, it was not able to manage the prospect of home gaming very well and the market became saturated with terrible games that were extremely overpriced. The inability for Atari to rectify the problem ended up with gaming lying on its death bed. While the rest of the gaming world moved on after the video game renaissance, Atari was not able to keep pace with the new generation of consoles and games. After several failed consoles, it fell into obscurity.
Since then, Atari has never been itself. It has been sold and resold many times over the last 3 decades. Eventually, it became nothing more than a name and a legacy portfolio. It has never been able to regain that household name status of its wonder years and like all obsolete companies it has fallen to the only thing left to do, trolling. Not just any trolling, but copyright trolling. Atari's latest owners recognize the value of its legacy portfolio. It knows that a number of developers today grew up playing the Atari 2600 and have fond memories of those games. Like many people who love the culture of their childhood, they want to pay homage to that memory.
Enter Black Powder Media, the makers of the iOS game Vector Tanks. These guys wanted to pay homage to the classic arcade game Battlezone and made Vector Tanks in its image. Black Powder tried to make it unique and were fairly successful at it. However, even Black Powder's best efforts to avoid copyright infringement were not enough for Atari
Anything that has even a passing resemblance to an Atari classic has been issued a copyright infringement claim. So – thanks to their special relationship with Apple – Atari has successfully scrubbed the app store of their perceived competition. It looks as though Apple complied without so much as a rebuttal or independent evaluation.
Atari decided that because it was no longer able to compete in a fair market, it would clear the market of any perceived competition. The fact that Apple was complacent and cooperative in all of this is also troubling. This is the type of world we live in today, where the claims of a copyright holder are taken at face value and no chance for a rebuttal is given to the victims. This is the current world of the DMCA, where in order for a platform to avoid liability, it resorts to a shoot first, ask questions later philosophy.
What makes this even worse is Atari's attitude about the take downs. In response to a query by Develop, Atari brushed off any concerns by stating little more than, "We need to protect our IP
While we have great respect for the indie developer community and greatly appreciate the enthusiasm that they have for our renowned properties, we need to vigorously protect our intellectual property and ensure that it is represented in highly innovative games.
Is that how you show respect? You think that indie developers enjoy having their work killed off with no questions asked and no chance to respond? In what can be seen as an even bigger slap in the face to indie developers, Atari still wants to work with them.
We look forward to further developing strong relationships with the indie app development community through additional games that we will be releasing in the future.
How can you build a strong relationship with indie developers when you are killing off their games? Why would any game developer want to work with you if this is the attitude you will take? If Atari was really interested in working with indie developers, it would probably be better to actually respond to their inquiries for licensing deals. As Black Powder told Venture Beat:
The cruel irony here is that I tried for years to get ahold of Atari to license their IP but they seemed to have fallen off the planet. Now this. It's very depressing.
So instead of working with the game developer to license your IP, you wait for that developer to waste its time and money making the game it wants anyway and then killing it once it hits the app store. While the games themselves may have a strong resemblance to the games in Atari's portfolio, Atari cannot hold a copyright on ideas. These games would have to have more than a passing resemblance to Atari's games for this to fly in any court. Which is probably why these takedowns were done privately through Apple. Of course, this behavior of lashing out and then coming in saying they want to work with the companies attacked is nothing new for Atari
So are these the final death throes of a dying game company or is Atari poised for a retro game come back? Considering that Atari has been trying for many, many years to revive its legacy portfolio
, I don't think this is any indication of new life within this shell of a company.