Wired – For techies of a certain age, few brands inspire as much nostalgia as Atari. They remember the heyday in the 1970s and 80s, when its two-dimensional arcade game Pong was the epitome of fun and the Atari 2600 video game console was the epitome of cool. But for many young gamers today, their closest brush with Atari is in the retro T-shirt section of their local Urban Outfitters.
Fred Chesnais wants to change that. As Atari’s new CEO and majority shareholder, Chesnais is leading what he hopes will be a turnaround of the 42-year-old brand, which emerged from bankruptcy proceedings last year. For Chesnais, who also served as Atari’s CEO between 2004 and 2007, it’s a second chance to make Atari relevant to a new generation.
His first step: let other people be Atari. Rather than immediately trying to reclaim Atari’s place as a top gaming company — a goal that has eluded many other CEOs with many different comeback strategies over the years — he’s planning on licensing that almighty brand to other studios who are already adept at building games for today’s audience. “Corporations die,” he says. “Brands like Atari don’t.”
It’s a plan that Chesnais says will allow his lean team of 10 employees to take on less risk and experiment with new products and mediums until they find a hit. If successful — and Chesnais knows as well as anyone that he may not be — he hopes that the dark days of Atari will have been nothing more than “a bad scene in what is a very good movie overall.” Here’s how he hopes to do it.