The Atari name has been out of the spotlight for a few years now. The company filed for bankruptcy back in 2013, giving up its IPs and logo, and was then was purchased by businessman and current CEO Fredric Chesnais. It appears that now is the time for the company to come out of the shadows, as Chesnais has revealed that Atari is back with a new endeavor.
“We’re back in the hardware business,” he told VentureBeat, explaining that the company is working on a new console. An Ataribox teaser website was launched earlier this month, fueling speculation that something may be up. Chesnais confirmed that it was legitimate and not fake news. He wouldn't go into specifics other than to say the new unit is currently in the design phase and would be based on PC technology. He promised more info soon.
The move is actually a sound one. The Atari name offers tremendous brand awareness with the public, especially old-school gamers. The success of Nintendo's NES Classic Edition also shows the appeal of nostalgia in consumer purchasing decisions.
After Chesnais bought the company, he made it clear in a 2014 interview that he felt that Atari was more than a software brand, it was also a hardware brand. "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.”
A console may not be the only thing on Chesnais's mind, if he is following through on other ideas as well. At the time, he also floated the thought of a game watch as something the company "could do." Or even an Atari-branded jacket with a plug-in to power an iPhone or Android via a solar chip in the shoulder. He said Atari has always been a "lifestyle brand."
"It’s more than just gaming. It goes beyond,” he concluded. “I didn’t buy the company to make T-shirts and stuff like that. We are way, way, way beyond that.”
So with that framing, we should be watching for a lot more interesting stuff coming from a brand that laid the groundwork for today's hardware and games.