Atari turning to online, social games

Infogrames president Phil Harrison says gaming subsidiary is moving away from big-budget, single-player games.

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It has been almost three months since Phil Harrison quit his high-profile position as head of Sony Computer Entertainment Worldwide Studios and took on a new role as president of troubled publisher and Atari-parent Infogrames.

People have been waiting to see the direction in which he is going to be steering the Infogrames ship--and in an interview with Gamasutra, some clues have emerged.

Harrison said that he believes the release of action survival game Alone in the Dark (coming up in June) will mark the beginning of a "new Atari," with an accompanying change in direction.

He said, "I don't see that we're going to be making huge-budget, single-player games in the future. Now, that doesn't mean that we won't have ambition to do really incredible games that have high quality, high execution, and high innovation, but they won't be one-player, narrative-driven, start-middle-end games."

The future lies in social games, Harrison believes. He commented, "'Swan song' is probably not the right word, but I think Atari is part of an industry in some transition from pure[ly] packaged media to an online business model and social communication and community model. If we are part of that transition, perhaps we are going to take a slightly aggressive, leading-edge role in that transition."

Discussion

71 comments
Jebbers
Jebbers

my 360 hasnt been online in 6 months, i only play single player games, or sports games with a friend, i havnt been into online multiplayer in a long time, then again i work alot and have an 11 month old son, so when i do get some spare time, i'd rather play a single player experience, eg gta4, mass effect, oblivion.

Erebus
Erebus

You can still have strong single-player experiences in multiplayer environments.... The question is, does Atari look at it this way, or are they jumping on the MMO bandwagon?

gshell
gshell

I agree with those gamers who say they don't want to see the end of story driven, single player experiences but I think Phil is right. I personally don't get into the whole social networking thing but I'm also an older gamer who loves single player games and on-line gaming with a few select friends. I think younger people want as much creativity and interaction as possible. I mean do you really need youtube, facebook, and a myspace page?.....hey, I think I know everything about you now. But that's what younger people are really into and I think Phil sees that and is trying to capitalize on that trend.

pippocalippo2
pippocalippo2

No. I ca't stand this. They must give a sequel of Alone in the Dark or the entire saga will die. It's true that no many people like this kind of games, but the social games are boring: you can play them for a pair of weeks...

akiwak
akiwak

There's people that like social gaming but not all people like social gaming. OK to focus time into this sector but don't forget that there are lots of us also that like story, gameplay, and single player experiences.

fencingbean
fencingbean

Atari can do whatever they like, as long as they make some very good games.

vbc_bt
vbc_bt

The best way to turn their ship around is to go for the Social Networking aspects of Roller Coaster Tycoon. It's got all the buzz words/trends covered and could be a lot of fun. Imagine user created and/or Atari created virtual amuement parks you could visit with your friends. The opportunity for Atari to cash in with things like micro transactions is real. The ability to visit parks online and actually buy things from the shops you visit in the game would be very unique and a fun way to shop online. The RCT franchise is very popular and well branded. If people could actually visit RCT4 parks online and walk around the parks, shop, ride the rides, watch the shows, play the games, etc. what would that be worth?! I can think of many, many revenue streams for a product like that.

lamprey263
lamprey263

Jeez Phil, just when I thought you might actually turn things around for Atari, I was soooo wrong. Anyhow, ALONE IN THE DARK actually looks like it just might be the game that'll turn Atari around... just too bad Phil had absolutely nothing to do with it.

Rhubarb9
Rhubarb9

they should make a sequel to E.T

Tysonia
Tysonia

Boo. There will always be a role for narrated games and media. People like the escapism and fantasy that narrated games create. Social games of course have a role too--it's just not narrative. If Atari wants to "outsource" story development to their consumers, so be it. But it's short-sighted.

williamquah
williamquah

i think that's a bad move. i enjoy playing alone(no lag, no people running off half way, start and quit a game at my leisure) it's a sad thing because the day online only happens is probably the end of gaming for me. it's that simple.

Lokar
Lokar

I will always have a place in my heart for Atari. Hope they can continue to keep doing things.

Proust
Proust

Glad Phil left Sony.

MC_Raptor
MC_Raptor

I for one have recently (since purchase of a ps3) been introduced to the world of online gaming. I have to say, It's like a whole new genre. You now KNOW who is the best, you have a whole new bunch of targets to meet, and achievements to aim for. I am excited by the whole "Play Create Share" motto of media molecule. I know that phil harrison has given sony a huge push in the direction of the "online social community" and see where he is going with infogrames. You can't tell what sort of games he is suggesting entirely, so I am excited to see where he takes them, and what he hopes to produce. I agree with phil, the future of gaming is social communication and of the community model. It's going to be brilliant. HenriH-42 Little big PLanet. probably one of the most innovative game in the last decade. British!

_iMMuNiTy_
_iMMuNiTy_

I would play social games. If outside didn't exist.

thekodaman
thekodaman

So essentially what this means is that Atari no longer has the revenue to compete with the big boys in the console market and are now turning to cheaper development options to get an income to limp by on. What's the point?

Diernes
Diernes

Awesome, hopefully that means they will release there franchises like D&D to a more worth publisher...

Nulike
Nulike

Everyone buy Alone in the Dark so this man has to eat his own words lol

bugsnaruto
bugsnaruto

Square enix never needed multiplayer games

morgonstjarnan
morgonstjarnan

Pathetic. Social games? As if Wii Sports or Eye of Judgement is somehow worth a dime compared to Planescape Torment, Fallout 2 or Final Fantasy X. Looks like Atari will kill itself off.

akiwak
akiwak

This is great news! There has been a lot of times that I've played through some single player games and I was like man I wish I could have shared this experience with somebody else. I'd hate to see a company such as atari go under, especially since they have been around since the beginning of console gaming.(Basically starting it!!!)

thenephariouson
thenephariouson

Multiplayer has mainly been an extension of the Single player component, however, i simply think that this will simply swap round. There will always be Single player games simple as that. Devs have realised that their Single player games lack the longevity of MP games and therefore become 'Trade-Ins', this in turn looses potential money of the original game, whereas a game with a great MP component simply adds a great deal of longevity e.g. R6 Vegas 1 is still a BIG online hit even after 2 years and a sequel.

jaden_lee
jaden_lee

if the things will keep going the way they are now market will soon be fed up with those super 'multi social online' crap. all this online socializing phenomena can't go on forever. for now poeple still see it as something amazing (look! i talk with someone who's half a wrold away!) but since people are everywhere the same it won't take long before everyone realize they can have the same relationships with people near them and soon all will long for those rare awsome narrative-driven single player games that leave you with beautiful memorys of amazing story, unique characters and great gameplay.

somberfox
somberfox

single player games don't sell. Yeah? So why did GTA4 break sales records then?

sickside6
sickside6

another company to turn to social gaming

HenriH-42
HenriH-42

thenephariouson, thanks for the recommendation. looks cool. added it to my tracked games ;)

cooldude03
cooldude03

Sounds like casual games are going to kill the high profile blockbuster titles. How many variations of tetris, bejeweled, and zuma do we really need? On the plus side I'm glad that gaming is becoming mainstream.

thenephariouson
thenephariouson

HenriH-42, Fair comment, I agree with you on the 'Eastern Europe' front, LionHead, Valve, Ubisoft...... also check out a game called 'Salvation' by 'Black Wing' looks V cool!

ps360fan
ps360fan

peeweeshift its sad that this is happening Agreed. It appears that the days of the solitary game playing experience are over.

HenriH-42
HenriH-42

"the most ingenious & original ideas are from the UK & US!" Actually, the most innovative games these days come from Eastern Europe, like Russia, Poland or Sweden (and Germany sometimes. And Turkey! Mount & Blade FTW!) Though that can be argued, but the fact is that my favorite games usually come from East-Europe. Innovative gaming used to be in UK and US in the 90's, but nowadays that's really not the case.

polsci1503
polsci1503

is everything going the way of casual, online and social? I don't think so. Atari needs to do something though, they are on life support.

Amir29
Amir29

I can't argue that online gaming is a developing trend and a fun one at that. However, designing levels and challenges for a single player creates a stronger, more suspenseful, and ultimately more satisfying challenge. Sometimes you just don't want others interfering with your experience and I don't understand why so many companies are not seeing that. Let's take a look at GTA 4. The game is unbelievably successful right now because of it's fearless budget and combination of both a satisfying single player mode and an online multi-player mode to expand even further on it's replay value. Now don't get me wrong, I completely understand the logic here. Reduce production costs and (at the same time) increase replay value. In theory, this formula is a win win situation for developers and consumers. But, we're talking about entertainment media here. If EVERYONE focuses on the online aspect only, we'll get so much of the same thing that people will eventually reject it and no longer be interested. Online multiplayer is a feature and developers would be very wrong to forget that. If you make the online aspect the main idea for most games, you'll quickly kill the joy the online option brings to games. Metal Gear, Grand Theft Auto, Resident Evil, God Of War, and Final Fantasy are only a few of very successful franchises that until recently have not taken advantage of an online multi-player mode. Now, how many of those titles have had generic clones made of them and were those generic titles successful? No. I suggest that you look at those numbers. It's simple logic, give people too much of the same thing, and you're no longer impressive.

thenephariouson
thenephariouson

It also ammuses me that the Japanese think they have the 'Monoploly' on gaming, as the most ingenious & original ideas are from the UK & US! they merely copy ideas but are good at it!

MedevilDragon
MedevilDragon

Sad but true, it was this kind of attitude that made Capcom kill the Onimusha and Dino Crisis games (because of stupid people who refused to buy good games), I still miss those games. "where big money circulates and that flow of cash determines this trend of pop content development."

Arnoud1976
Arnoud1976

I have to say i find this disturbing, I was fortunate to work in the gaming bizz a couple of years ago here in Holland, I was able to alpha and beta the online network for playstation 2, i had a lot of fun playing the original socom back then. Why? because i knew all the guys personally, these were the guys working at Playstation, EA and Konami, i myself was working for Activision back then and some of these guys i worked with on a daily basis. I've been out of the business for a long while now, and when i go online (that's very very rarely) and beat some guy at a game it does nothing for me because i don't know him. I don't know if he's a good gamer or if he always sucks at this game. I do like multiplayer though, when my friends are in the same room with me and we can have a couple of drinks etc. Just have fun. That's why i was so very disappointed in the new burnout games, they completely removed any splitscreen options, so i stop buying those games. I don't see why my friends need to go home in order for us being able to play a multiplayer game, they live just a couple of blocks away!! Personally i think all games should have a great single player experience, if not i won't buy them.

hatefull
hatefull

single player games don't sell. especially on pc. you all know why.

Minsk_bg
Minsk_bg

Well, it seems that the gaming industry is becoming similar to the movie and the music industries where big money circulates and that flow of cash determines this trend of pop content development. I think it's quite natural and expected, though It really frustrates me as I also value the single-player experience more and I support all others commenting on this article who prefer single-playing and who moan about the lack of that kind of quality games that were more prominent before the second millenium. As I started pc gaming in the late 90s, remembering the games of those times brings up nostalgia. I mean at least there were more games that had decent storytelling, and there were more humorous games (anyone remember the Monkey Island series?..). But I think it's not all that bleak because, like in the movie, the music industries, I believe there will always be not entirely mainstream, but quality, innovative products as there will always be those who want such products. I mean single-playing won't die out for the simple reason that there will always be those who prefer such playing like those commenting here. The worst scenario it will be a niche. P.S. about the reference on Baldur's Gate 3. Though for me it is the best game I have ever played, my top of all, but I really wouldn't like to see a another sequel simply because, in my opinion, it would not have any sense. I mean it is a trilogy like Lord of the Rings with a clear, firm conclusion which completes the whole game in the third part, and a continuation would be more as a way of cashing in on the popularity of the trilogy which would only anger the fans. Instead, there could be a game with a different title set in the same Forgotten Realms universe, akin to Neverwinter Nights or Icewind Dale.

envint251
envint251

I completely agree with HenriH-42. I'm just not into online gaming and it kills me to see a potentially good single-player game sacrificed for online multiplayer. Why must almost all games now have multiplayer, meaning that the single-player storyline - the reason I buy the game in the first place - is reduced to a mere 4-6 hours? Why have we gotten to the point where it feels like single-player is the tacked-on part of the game?

Humorguy_basic
Humorguy_basic

The end of the single player game is the end of the video gaming business - on console and especially PC. I had an idea years ago and now i'll go public. Why cannot a publisher create a huge world with a certain section containing a 'game' then release episodic 'data disks' that 'plug-in' to this world allowing for towns to grow up and then die, to allow for destructible landscapes (if in the story a building needs to be blown up, it stays blown up for ever more unless a new 'story data disk' comes out the allows for that building to be rebuilt. In effect you would have a master file (the landscape) being overwritten by the data disk information. Data could reside on CD/DVD, but the landscape would be all on the hard disk allowing for data destruction and tweaking in real time. Think Oblivion with a landscape 10 times bigger that came with the original Oblivion world but with another 4/5's to add to . Then, every 6 months, data disks to create new stories and create new towns/caves/forts (with associated stories) With the landscape held in a different way, we could have destructible landscapes. We could create much deeper stories. With this system, a series of data disk could have come out that slowly re-built Kvatch and created quests within it!

HenriH-42
HenriH-42

Damn. I don't like online games myself, unless they are LAN co-op (oh I've had so much fun with Quake and Hexen II in LAN.) I want good single player games dammit! I want INNOVATIVE single player games. Anyone remember Thief, Deus Ex and System Shock 2? (I have to always bring those up, lol) They are my favorite games of all time, why? Because the developers (RIP Looking Glass :() wanted to make new and innovative games, not because of money. It seems that these days developers only want to make money and be popular, and that's probably why my favorite games these days, like Penumbra Black Plague and Mount & Blade are made by smaller "indie" companies who don't care if the game will be a hit, they want to deliver good game experience to their fans. In the good old days (90's) all developers used to be like that, because gaming wasn't mainstream back then. Back then they used to be just regular gamers like us who knew how to code. Nowadays they act like arrogant rock stars. It's sad but I think that mainstream has destroyed or is destroying gaming. I mean, "social gaming" is fun once in a while and all that, but... that makes it too easy for developers to make money, so no-one really cares if the games are innovative or even good these days, as long as they sell. Good single player games are really rare these days because most games just have a really short (and unoriginal) single player campaign and then the multiplayer part which rips off Unreal Tournament. It's really sad.

Pete5506
Pete5506

I hope this works out for them

Jd1680a
Jd1680a

Putting all your eggs in one basket wont solve anything. Harrison needs to consider making both single and social games.

somberfox
somberfox

So does this mean that there will never be another single player D&D game, seeing as how only Atari has rights to make D&D games? Goodbye to my dream of Baldur's Gate 3 of ever seeing light of day. Well, that pretty much puts the final nail in the coffin of pc RPGs.

raahsnavj
raahsnavj

Well, if the future lies in social games I guess I probably won't hear much about Atari in a few years... Maybe they will make some cool Wii games.

UncannyChuckles
UncannyChuckles

From a business standpoint, online and subscription games are better for the company. Look at how much money WoW rakes in for Blizzard every month. From a gamer standpoint, we pay more money for less quality -- WoW sucks. Harrison's "future" is the whatever makes the most money for the company, he just doesn't put it into those words. Atari isn't the only ones though. Crytech's big statement about 'piracy' being the reason behind them switching to a mainstream, watered-down, multi-platform release for Crysis 2 is just as much BS. They know thats where the money is, in the hands of the parents of 12 year old xbox gamers. Its too bad we live in a society driven only by money. We would have much better games/ movies/ and television if the ENTIRE focus wasn't on creating a product for maximum monetary return. People who care and who know the difference will always suffer when companies pander to the mainstream.

BigSmitts07
BigSmitts07

still kind of confused..but atari needs something because somethings got to give

Kravyn81
Kravyn81

[quote="al-masri"]"So now we can fully understand the conflict he had with Sony. Phil: Lets make Home not just a portal but a new universe of gaming where gamers never play alone again. Kaz:No!! MGS4,FFXIII, and GOW3 FOREVER!!!!FOOOOOOOOOOREVER!!!!"[/quote] :lol:

ldonyo
ldonyo

Since Atari can't get a big-budget game done right, this is no loss.

5FingersOfDeath
5FingersOfDeath

I still think they shoulda changed the title of Alone in the Dark, the movie killed the brand and guess who's responsible...