Spot On: Atari's master plan--online and off

Game publisher kicks off its 2006 press event with talk of external development, better quality control, and a new presence on the Internet.

LAS VEGAS--Publisher Atari is holding its annual press event to show off its upcoming lineup of games at a sprawling casino in sweltering Sin City. While the focus of the event is coverage of the actual games at air-conditioned stations away from the 100-degree heat outside, several executives were on hand to kick off the event with comments on the company's future plans.

Sales and marketing vice president Nique Fajors kicked off the address with a frank assessment of Atari's past missteps, explaining that the company will put stronger emphasis on quality control and on hiring teams to manage product approvals and developer relations. They will be new hires who, like Fajors, feel "disgust with losing, and disgust with being mediocre."

Fajors conceded that Atari hasn't had a strong track record on projects developed in-house, and therefore the company will focus more strongly on externally developed games, as well as on taking additional time to get game projects finished right. Fajors compared Atari's 2005 game Driv3r to its upcoming racing game Test Drive Unlimited. The former was, Fajors said, "a half-baked product that was pushed out the door for revenue reasons."

Fajors then outlined Atari's stronger push into the online space, which will take the form of a community-focused Web site called Atari Online. Senior vice president of Atari Online Chris Bergstresser elaborated on the new Web presence, suggesting that it will be a key part of "tying [the game development process] in to a consumer experience."

The executive suggested that Atari would "expand into online past boxed product." Many modern games often "try to create a huge, immersive experience," but they have perhaps forgotten the "fun factor and value" that simpler games can provide, he said.

To that end, Bergstresser announced that Atari would revisit its own stable of classic arcade games and release them on Microsoft's Xbox Live online service. The executive suggested that these games won't have their core gameplay changed, but that "they'll be presented in a more-modern look and feel." The first such game will be released in time for the holiday season this year, he said, likely around October or November.

Bergstresser suggested that the company's new emphasis on online-enabled games would include improved multiplayer options for online games like Test Drive Unlimited, continuous content updates for already-released games "to bring a sense of newness to the products," and the upcoming community site, which might see a soft launch later this year and a beta-test version in 2007.

To cap the presentation, business development vice president Robert Stevenson briefly discussed Atari's expanded focus on partnering with external development houses, as well as on working out a streamlined approval process to get games from differing territories the green light from Atari headquarters.

If the presentation is any indication, the beleaguered publisher is attempting to honestly assess its own strengths and weaknesses. Atari hopes that a shift in strategy--longer game-development times, online games and community outreach, and partnerships with external studios--will pay off in the future and prevent chasing short-term revenue targets by pushing unfinished games out the door.

GameSpot will have full coverage of Atari's lineup in the near future.

Written By

Want the latest news about DRIV3R?

DRIV3R

DRIV3R

Discussion

22 comments
VampyreLegion
VampyreLegion

BTW the police are not that great in the game, if anyone remebers the old test drives, if you went speeding by a cop they would come after you.... NOT so in this release, you can go past a cop at 200 MPH and they will not chase you. You need to crash into other cars in order to get a police chase. I wish the cops would bust you for speeding like the older games. I loved the radar , I wish they made a Radar you could by in the game to install on your car. Well the chases are fun, but wish you would get tickets for something other then crashing into cars.. :(

robindt
robindt

Driv3R was a buggy game and much of my knowledge in Programming I was able to make the game run quit well. Most testing and rewriting the game's runtime problems can be lengthy and cost over run can be limited as for this was the delayed time table for it's release several times and being ported originally for Console Gaming. To bad the game didn't come with an Editor for just that purpose. I'm replaying Drivr3R on a new PC Gaming Cumputer I personally built here in the last few months. Results may be posted.

smbius
smbius

None of these executives no anything about games and its industry. Check out their bios.

coltACP
coltACP

Nice to see Atari trying to put more quality over sales in their ethos now. Alot of developers do miss the point of making games, alot of them fall into the pitfall of trying to compare to the film industry, it's a mistake that ends up with shallow gameplay mechanics and pretty pictures more often than not, when games by now should be BETTER than films, a totally different experience where WE interact with all kinds of familiar and unfamiliar things, even the older games from the 1980's have more scope and quality than most modern games. As to the Driver series, yes Driver was a good game at the time definatly, but i would just like to defend driver 2 from being just a bad sequel. In my and my freidns opinions driver two surpassed the first one because they put the multiplayer mode in it, this is what made Driver 2 really fun. But one franchise IS similar to the driver theme, need for speed hot pursuit, these games also did the chase mechanic(as did gta tbh) too and cat and mouse gameplay has been fun ever since PAC MAN.

Ganados88
Ganados88

I must say that I was really impressed by Driver PL and i do not want the series to end here. I haven't played any test drive game så I can't say much about it...

dennisdim
dennisdim

I think it was time that Atari tried to make a decent driving game. I don´t know if their choice to name this new effort by the Test Drive Series name will be successfull but i am sure that this will be something really new!

jasonmacrillo
jasonmacrillo

test drive.. never a great series.. and ive played it since test drive 1... its just mediocre.. atari needs to come up with some fresh, NEW, and creative franchises that are actually fun to play.. just hire new, and quality teams and it will pay off no matter what the cost of pay

holenjd
holenjd

Wish they would have ported CRASHDAY to the next gen consoles. That was a fun game. I just can't stand playing driving games on PC. It just doesn't feel right to me.

faridmon
faridmon

when was the last AAA Atari game? yeah right, it was UT 2004 and thats was back in 2003, Atari simply suck these days they can't evev make good games, and yeah Driver (1) was awsome at that time.

ghostadv
ghostadv

Th 1st Driver game was great, I couldn't stop playing it. Then the sequals came out and either felt like simple add-ons or trying to make it something it isn't. I'm kinda glad that Atari actually recognizes that Driver 3 was just there for money and not for fun.

Riverwolf007
Riverwolf007

Anyone that didnt like driver (ps1) must have played it 5 years after it came out because at the time it was released there was nothing like it, every sequel that came out for it was horrible. Test drive unlimited looks pretty good, the massively multiplayer angle is probobly overhyped and wont exactly be peoples expectation of what massively multiplayer means to us today but it could very well be the first step in what would be a great direction for a modern race game to go in. I am totally happy that theres going to be mindless arcade race game coming out that i wont have to be mr. frikkin goodwrench and know how set the toe in and camber of the wheels to be competitive online. The arcade titles will be a tough sell i think for the most part, they need to be cheap, cheaper even than the current crop of xbl capcom titles, because while mass people jumped at the chance to own SF2 hyper-fighting, it was more because of the nostalgia factor of people sitting around with a group of friends playing loser passes the controller than anything else and nothing really comes to mind from the old atari stable that was like that. Lastly we can only hope they are smart enough to not try to force an atari online division down peoples throats i basically wont touch most EA games because you have to log on to xbl then get shuttled of to EA's crappy servers that dont work half as well as the regular MS way of doing it.

zub1
zub1

Hopefully Test Drive Unlimited will be a success.

Sydwynder
Sydwynder

The original Driver game was sublime and so fun because there was nothing else out there like it. That's about where the series should have stopped though, there are so many clone games out there now. As for Test Drive, racing games get me about as excited as watching The View.....as in I avoid it like the plague.

Raeldor
Raeldor

Their share price definitely needs a boost. Hope it works out for them.

guynamedbilly
guynamedbilly

I enjoyed TestDrive 5, but that was what, 8 years ago? I think it was around the time when Need 4 Speed started changing it's format to more, um, exciting things... I agree about Driver though, go bury it out in the desert.

oDARKBLADEo
oDARKBLADEo

I've never been a big fan of Test Drive either, but this new game looks awesome, and I'll certainly be geting it. I think they are moving in the right direction. But, please, bury the Driver franchise. It blows.

ConManWithGun
ConManWithGun

im not a big fan of test drive or driver they both sucked