Atari Inc. CEO talks E3 no-show, Star Trek Online due pre-April 2010

Q&A: Jim Wilson explains publisher's rationale for not publicly showing wares during June event; Cryptic's long-awaited sci-fi MMORPG will be out within the next 12 months.

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Atari has a number of games slated to arrive in the next few months. On June 16, the resurgent publisher will release Terminal Reality's Ghostbusters: The Video Game, with internally owned Cryptic Studios set to launch its superhero-themed massively multiplayer online game Champions Online on July 14. Further out, Atari expects to launch Cryptic's other MMOG, Star Trek Online, during its current fiscal year ending March 31, 2010.

Slimer will, fortunately, not be attending any E3 parties.
Slimer will, fortunately, not be attending any E3 parties.

Despite that notable slate, the publisher revealed this week that it would not be exhibiting its products on the show floor of the 2009 Electronic Entertainment Expo, which takes place June 1-4 in Los Angeles. Instead, Atari intends to use the time to conduct meetings related to publishing and development plans.

To find out more about Atari's decision, GameSpot contacted Atari Inc. CEO Jim Wilson. (Atari Inc. is the US arm of France-based Atari, headed by CEO David Gardner.) "We made the decision not to exhibit months ago," Wilson told GameSpot as part of an e-mail interview, responding to initial online reports that the publisher had pulled out of previous commitments to display its products at the show. "We believe that E3 benefits the entire industry; however, we decided not to exhibit this year."

According to Wilson, the decision to take this approach was primarily due to Atari's own events, both upcoming and recently past.

"Atari US has had great success with Atari Live and title-specific events, such as our April Ghostbusters event in New York," he said. "Given our success with this strategy, and our focus on execution of upcoming releases, not exhibiting made sense. So you can plan to see more press events from us this year focused on Champions and Star Trek Online and other titles. Additionally, we recently completed another retailer road show to focus on our upcoming title launches."

Wilson also noted that Atari's decision not to exhibit at E3 was not a commentary on the current state of its soon-to-be-released games. "Most of the titles shown at E3 are those that release in the fall and holiday time frame," he said. "We have had tremendous buzz and great press surrounding Ghostbusters and Champions Online."

"The fact of the matter is that we have been very visible with Ghostbusters and the video game press, and retailers have definitely been excited with what they have seen in the game," Wilson continued. "In addition, with the game launching days after E3, our main focus is consumers, and that is where we are putting our efforts. As for Champions Online, we have been conducting press and retail meetings for some time and are planning a Champions event this summer."

The Atari executive also addressed Star Trek Online, which is expected to launch during his aforementioned holiday time frame. "Star Trek is on track to being a big launch in this fiscal year, especially given the franchise's success and response to the new film. We are thrilled to work on it and delighted with the new audience that is building with the movie. We plan to formally unveil the title in the very near future."

Wilson also commented on E3's new format, which has been upscaled to near-2006 levels after smaller events in 2007 and 2008 drew scathing criticism from the publishing community.

"We know the industry is really energized and looking forward to the new format," he said. "I think many felt underserved by the downscaled show. There seems to be a great deal of excitement that the entire games industry will now be in attendance and re-engaged. We look forward to being a part of it."

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