Blockchains and hotels dedicated to gaming: Atari's plan to become essential again

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A pioneer in the history of video games, the Atari company in 2020 stepped up projects aimed at diversifying its activity around gaming, in particular through blockchains and hotels dedicated to cyber culture.

If you're over 50, or interested in video game history at all, the name Atari is bound to mean something. In fact, it is almost synonymous with video games, having almost given birth to it.

From myth to chaos

In 1972, the Atari company, which had just been launched in California, launched Pong , an arcade game simulating a game of tennis. An ultra minimalist game, not to say rudimentary: two cursors act as rackets, a vertical dotted line symbolizes the net and a point which moves on the screen represents the ball. Simple, but universal and fun. While it's not the very first title in video game history, Pong , which will then be adapted in multiple versions, is its first commercial success. The video game industry was born.

Asteroids , Pac-Man , Space Invaders … In the years that follow, Atari will line up the hits . At the same time, the company is making its mark in game consoles, a market that it has almost initiated. Nearly ten models will be launched, in particular the Atari 2600, marketed in 1977 and of which 30 million copies will run until 1992. For two decades, Atari will be a giant of video games, achieving at its peak a turnover expressed in billions of dollars

decades, all or part of the company and its assets will have been purchased by Warner, Tramiel, Namco, Mitsubishi, Hasbro and finally Infogrames. Atari's eventful journey is an imbroglio that would give the most motivated video game historians a headache.

It should be noted that Atari is today a French company, still focused on the game. With a turnover of 20 million euros for the fiscal year 2018–2019, Atari is nothing more than one. modest actor but his brand, moreover carried by a logo which has not changed for fifty years, remains very much alive.

From console to blockchains

Throughout 2020, Atari has multiplied the announcements and projects suggesting a desire to reinvent itself. It started with the launch of the Atari VCS , marking the brand's return to the hotly contested home console market. High-end, marketed in presale at $ 399.99 for delivery expected at the end of the year, the device allows you to play (including retro games), stream movies in 4K, and even create your own games, while promoting a community logic. Atari does not hesitate to refer to its past successes in this area to describe “a re-imagined icon, capable of transforming the way we interact with our TV, as the Atari 2600 did there four decades ” .

However, reconnecting with the past is not the only component of Atari's return to the foreground. In 2020, the company also distinguished itself by launching its own cryptocurrency, the Atari Token (ATRI), a token that relies on the Ethereum blockchain, the world's second largest cryptocurrency. It is about “  boosting the video game industry  ” , and developing “a blockchain-based environment around the Atari brand” . Concretely, two directions are envisaged: on the one hand, establishing partnerships with other game publishers to try to impose the Atari token as “  players  ' currency ”; on the other hand, to develop "  crypto-games »Focused on the new possibilities of blockchains and crypto-currencies.

Gaming could increasingly combine in the light of greed and financial speculation

In the latter case, the sector is already very competitive . In the wake of the success of the CryptoKitties , a number of blockchain-based games, including collectible and strategy games, have emerged in recent years. While playing it, we collect digital objects that can increase in value, we buy and sell virtual artifacts that have become unique tokens on dedicated marketplaces, and we are sometimes even paid in cryptocurrencies to participate in the game. for amateur gamers, gaming could therefore increasingly be combined in the light of greed and financial speculation.

The stakes are high for companies capable of capitalizing on this trend, a fortiori to create "the cryptocurrency of video games". But if Atari is the first historical player in this industry to try it, the path promises to be chaotic. Introduced for the first time on the public markets on October 29, 2020, then opened for trading on November 2, the token quickly saw its price drop, from 0.25 to 0.08 dollars today. For the managers of the company, the main thing is not there: “  The important thing is that our token is now listed on the markets. Now we can start building, ” comments Frédéric Chesnais, CEO of Atari, from New York.

In fact, in recent months, the company has increased its partnerships. On November 2, for example, an agreement was announced with Karma the Game of Destiny , an immersive game in virtual reality where people socialize through avatars. The Atari token will be used to pay for goods and services available in the game. A few days earlier, partnerships were also established with Chain Games , Estonian organizer of e-sports competitions awarded in tokens, with Animoca Brands , publisher of blockchain games successful and subsidiary of a heavyweight in mobile gaming, or with WAX, a project built on an independent blockchain on which collectible cards in the colors of Atari's legendary games are developed.

While waiting for the "Atari hotels"

Atari seems to want to go all out. The proof with another very ambitious project: the upcoming launch of “  Atari hotels  ”. Announced in January 2020 by the signing of an agreement with GSD Group, a company based in Arizona and specializing in the development of products derived from major brands, and materialized in mid-October by the presentation of the selected design, the project will take the form of 'a chain of hotels focused on video games and gaming culture.

In addition to an architecture that will clearly evoke the famous Atari logo, these colorful establishments should house games rooms, host e-sport competitions, or allow you to try out virtual reality. True temples of digital and cyberculture, in short, which will not forget the past of the brand and its famous arcade games, also on the program. "Atari hotels will happily blend retro-futurism, pop culture and nostalgia, offering fun for the whole family," it promises.

"  We are involved in the development of the concept, then the hotels will be developed under license," explains Frédéric Chesnais. According to GSD, the first Atari hotels should open in Phoenix (Arizona) and Las Vegas (Nevada), before spreading to half a dozen other American cities.

If the success of this all-round strategy remains to be confirmed, at least we can salute its audacity, because it is indeed an inordinate ambition that transpires from these projects. Moreover, when asked if he intends to ensure that Atari becomes a major global giant again, its CEO responds with a categorical "Yes". It's all the harm we wish him.

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