Cryptic MMOGs lift Atari earnings

Online revenues soar 493.5%, but publisher's $55.8 million nine-month earnings offset by plummeting packaged goods business.

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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.

Champions Online is helping to keep Atari alive and kicking.
Champions Online is helping to keep Atari alive and kicking.

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.

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