The history of Atari began in 1972 when the company was founded by Nolan Bushnell and his associate Ted Dabney. Originally the firm was called Syzygy but Bushnell later changed it to Atari.
Beginnings and Early Success
A year before the company was founded Bushnell hired Al Alcorn to recreate the Odyssey game Tennis for Two. The result was Pong. When the game was released in 1972, it became a huge hit. The Atari Company was founded that same year (the word Atari means go in Japanese. Sometimes it is also translated as to hit the target).
The success of Pong (150,000 copies sold) marked a significant turning point in the history of Atari. In 1975, Bushnell sold the company to Warner Communications.
It was under Warner that the gaming platform attained success. The Atari 2600 was so popular the sales made up a third of Warner’s profit for the first few years. In 1980 the Atari home video system made nearly half a billion dollars in sales.
The 1983 Crash
In 1983 sales of video games plummeted in the United States. Atari losses amounted to over $550 million. The following year Warner handed over Atari to Jack Tramiel (former head of Commodore). The Atari St came out and sales peaked at $25 million in 1986.
The next stage in the history of Atari involved its struggles with rival Nintendo. Their rival was winning market share so Atari worked on the Lynx system. It was a handheld console complete with color. The Lynx sold poorly for two reasons. Number one, shortage of components prevented it from being released during the 1989 holiday season. Second it cost twice as much as the Nintendo Game Boy.
Tramiel had also stressed personal computers were Atari’s future. Its computer line however, was affected by the unexpected rise of Microsoft Windows. In 1992 Atari released the Jaguar, but it could not revive the company’s fortunes. The company also became involved in a series of lawsuits with Nintendo.
Fall of Atari
The history of Atari in the 1990s and 2000s was that of being sold and resold. A company called Sega put in $40 million to gain rights to all is property. Two years later a new division of Atari was setup but it failed. A couple of years later, JTS (which owned Atari) dumped the assets as intellectual property scrap. Hasbro
bought them for $5 million.
In 2000, Hasbro sold Atari Interactive to Infogrames. In 2008, Infogrames bought all the shares of Atari and became sole owner. At the end of the year 2008, Atari Inc (under Infogrames) took over Cryptic Studios.
However there are reports Namco Bandai wanted to obtain a stake at Atari Inc. As of the present time, there is no clear indication as to what direction the company will take in terms of producing or distributing games.
Going over the history of Atari, it’s clear that the company is now but a fraction of what it once was. Nevertheless, its contribution to the gaming world cannot be denied.