Atari wants to get back into hardware, but not with a console
Atari's CEO doesn't see the company being limited to just software for much longer.
Atari might be a fraction of what it was 30 years ago, but its new CEO has aspirations for an expansion back into the hardware business--although he doesn't plan to do so with a new game console.
"It's more than a software brand... it's a hardware brand," Frederic Chesnais said of Atari in an interview with GamesBeat. "I don't want to say it's a hardware brand first and foremost, but it is also a hardware brand. So we are carefully looking at... you know... we have a replica of the initial Atari 2600, but that is also something that we want to carefully announce in the course of the next few years, which is that with new licensing with the right partners we build the brand not only in the software space but also in the hardware space."
Atari was the behemoth of the games industry before the crash of 1983, when it developed a number of hit games and game consoles including the Atari 2600. Chesnais isn't seeking to regain its position as the premier console manufacturer; instead, he has his eyes set on possibilities that extend beyond gaming.
"I'm not talking about a new console... but, like, a watch. A gamified watch. It's not what we are going to do, but think about [something like] that," he said. This isn't to say Atari is necessarily planning to release a watch with its name on it, as Chesnais added, "Like a new type of watch is something we 'could do.' A watch, branded, where you don't have an 'ordinary watch.'"
Chesnais thinks Atari would have a chance with something like this because, unlike defunct publisher THQ, which he singled out, Atari is "a generational brand" and "a lifestyle brand."
"To give you another idea of something we could do, you have a jacket. We have a plug-in so you can power your iPhone or Android. You had a solar chip on your shoulder so that you power... so that you never run out of batteries," he explained. "Things like this. Would you buy an Atari watch? Would you buy an Atari Jacket that you could plug and repower your iPhone or whatever device you are using? I think you would... I think you would."
Atari's history has been a long and complicated one, and Chesnais has been around for much of it over the last 13 years. He served in a variety of roles for Atari in the 2000s, including CEO of Atari Interactive. He left in 2007 before returning last year, when he purchased a significant portion of the company and was named CEO and Chairman of the Board.
"I didn't buy the company to make T-shirts and stuff like that," he told GamesBeat. "We are way, way, way beyond that."