After more than 30 years of shaping the video game industry, Atari could very well be facing its last hurrah, unless someone picks up the rights to its properties for them to live on.
The company's U.S. division has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, a move that is an effort to break away from its French parent company, Atari SA (formerly Infogrames), which acquired the company in 2008. A press release issued by Atari U.S. indicates that they're looking to "secure independent capital for future growth, primarily in the areas of digital and mobile games."
The company hasn't been pushing many retail releases as of late: Its last packaged game was the racer "Test Drive: Ferrari Racing Legends" for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 last year. However, it's been highly active in the digital download and mobile markets, with such releases as the Xbox Live/PlayStation Network multiplayer battle game "Warlords" and mobile releases like the shooter "Centipede: Origins" and "Circus Atari" (which resembles the game "Doodle Jump").
Though Atari sees the bankruptcy as a reorganizational move, all of its assets are up for sale, including its game franchises (like "Asteroids," "Tempest" and "Test Drive"), as well as its classic Atari logo. [See also: Atari Legacy Still Going Strong At 40 Years ]
The company didn't have any blockbuster games lined up at the time of its filing, but it's released quite a few in the past, including "Ghostbusters," a game that reunited the cast from the film (including Bill Murray and Dan Aykroyd, who lent their voices and likenesses to their characters) as playable video game characters fighting all-new spiritual entities.
Considering the trouble that Atari has seen over the years – namely the 1983 video game market crash led by its poor video game treatment of "E.T. the Extra Terrestrial" – it's hard to see what its future could be like at the moment. Perhaps it will come up with a new business plan, one that forgoes blockbuster retail game releases in favor of more independent digital and mobile downloads, as it's been doing over the past few months.
Atari could also find a better publishing partner, one who knows how to push a franchise into the current game scene. Ubisoft immediately comes to mind, considering the growth of its " Rayman " and "Splinter Cell" games, both of which will see new releases in 2013.
Coming back from bankruptcy is always a road filled with bumps. But Atari has come back from failed partnerships and even a video game crash caused partly by its own blockbuster failure. There may be a bonus round yet.
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