Atari "Destroyed" by Sale to Warner, Says Founder
Nolan Bushnell adds, "I think that Atari would still be important today if that sale hadn't occured."
Atari's decision to sell to Warner Communications in 1976 was a mistake that cost the iconic Pong company almost everything, according to co-founder Nolan Bushnell. During a recent Reddit AMA, Bushnell said the biggest lesson he learned at Atari was to never sell to "big Hollywood studios." This sale almost immediately marked the end of Atari, he said.
"Atari had an extraordinary corporate culture that was destroyed within two years of the sale," Bushnell said. "I think that Atari would still be important today if that sale hadn't occurred."
Atari lives on today, but only as a shell of its former self, having undergone numerous splits and acquisitions. The current version of Atari is still involved in games, having recently announced Roller Coaster Tycoon World and reboots of Alone in the Dark and Haunted House for PC.
Bushnell's Reddit AMA also reveals some other interesting highlights about his personal life and career. First, he says that it is indeed true that he had a beer tap in his office at Atari, Chuck E. Cheese's, and every other company he has ever run. Bushnell also points out that the rights to his image and likeness were optioned by Leonardo DiCaprio, and reiterates that a movie about his life is currently in development. Though Bushnell says he thinks DiCaprio would do a fine job bringing him to life on screen, he would also be happy if Liam Neeson got the job.
It has also been reported that Apple co-founder founder Steve Jobs in 1976 approached Bushnell and asked if he would invest $50,000 in the company in exchange for a one-third stake. He declined the offer at the time. As you might, he now wishes he hadn't. "I regret it. :(" he said.
Finally, Bushnell offered a prediction for where the future of technology might go. "I think that robots and entertainment will be very important in the future," he said. "I'm also very interested in businesses that will be enabled by autonomous or auto-drive cars. There will also be an interesting intersection between computers and biology. Harder tech, but important, is nanotech, i.e. micromachines."
Most recently, Atari CEO Frederic Chesnais said in May that the company wants to get back into hardware, but not with a console.