Atari's purchase of Cryptic Studios in late 2008 has proven to be a lifeline for the once-mighty publisher. The company issued its nine-month earnings recap this week, and the report revealed massive losses for its traditional packaged goods business but stratospheric gains from its online revenues.
For the nine-month period ended December 31, Atari saw total sales decline 55.7 percent year-over-year to €41 million ($55.8 million). The publisher's performance was hurt by its retail business, which saw earnings slip 74.7 percent to €22.6 million ($30.7 million), due largely to the absence of a title that could rival last year's Ghost Busters: The Video Game. Atari did not reveal net income.
However, the positive side of the story can be found in Atari's online revenues, which were up 493.5 percent to €18.4 million ($25 million). Atari attributed the gains to Cryptic's two massively multiplayer online role-playing games: Star Trek Online and Champions Online. With the gains, Atari's online revenue accounted for 44.9 percent of total revenues, compared to 3.4 percent during the same period a year ago.
Though Champions Online received superior review scores to Star Trek Online, neither game has proven to be a breakout financial success. However, newly appointed Atari CEO Jim Wilson did say that "initial results have been promising" for Champions Online's transition to a free-to-play, microtransaction-supported business model in January.
Looking ahead to the remainder of 2011, Atari has a number of high-profile releases on its slate, including The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings. Atari also has a handful of downloadable titles en route for Xbox Live, PSN, and the PC, including Dungeons & Dragons: Daggerdale and games based on the Ghostbusters license. The publisher noted that those titles will also see a retail release.