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February 2015 Retro Gaming Article

February 1, 2015 Retro Gaming Blog Post:

Atari's social casino venture may dilute the value of the brand when it needs reinforcement

Atari JackpotsCart as a 2600 cartridge Not long ago I heard the current owners of Atari IPs had decided to go into the online social casino arena with a classic arcade game tie-in. Atari Jackpots appears to be that venture. Partnering with FlowPlay, they have created a virtual world around casino games with a bit of arcade flare.

Many online casino oriented sites simply present the individual game screens, Atari's game lets you pick an avatar (character) to identify you as you go from place to place. Aside from arcade themed slot machines and other casino games, you can walk around various parties, a pool, and other areas.

I see the value of widening the online casino gaming offerings. A friendlier interface makes you feel like you are part of the game rather than simply staring at a slot machine. But, I also feel that the gambling audience is more distant from video games and may not care about an Atari crossover, despite their high recognition in gaming. Casino "gaming" is different - almost separate - from arcade gaming.

Atari Jackpots Atari Jackpots I'm not too familiar with social casino gaming, but it seems like an interesting diversion from the standard notion of gambling. However, when you insert in the Atari name with casino gaming, I get a little confused.

For me, Atari has always conjured arcade and home video game scenarios. When I think about gaming, I don't think of roulette. slot machines or Las Vegas. That seems like a different world - a world I would call "gambling" rather than "gaming". When these two mix in a product like Atari Jackpots, I wonder... who wins?

Atari Jackpots Obviously, the partnership behind this venture stands to make money, but I wonder what the cost is farther down the road. I'm an Atari fanatic and will shamelessly buy almost anything brandishing that iconic logo, but there also has to be a protection of the brand.

I wasn't wild about their 2014 promotion with Denny's restaurants. My objection was that they altered their classic games with fast food imagery. Asteroids became Hashteroids and a ketchup bottle was shooting at hash browns. You don't see Ronald McDonald dressed in black wearing a sombrero... and there's a reason!

There's nothing wrong with sombreros or hash browns, but you don't alter your brand - you affiliate it with these things. Reward Denny's customers with the awesomeness of Asteroids, don't turn it into shooting ketchup. This devalues your brand!

Atari Jackpots I wonder if Atari Jackpots has the same effect. You don't seem to be able to play any of Atari's classic games through this interface, but rather their imagery is strewn around a casino setting. I see the short term gains, but as time moves on, the original greatness of Atari games must be reinforced!

When was the last time you played a classic arcade game on a Generation 8 console? Outside of a few downloadable games, they are scarce. You won't see Atari's greatest hits on a shelf at GameStop. Generation 8 doesn't even have a Namco Museum release! You can find retro games on mobile, but I'm not sure that experience really showcases the grandeur of arcades and home consoles of their era. And using emulators on small mobile screens has the same deflating effect.

Atari Jackpots themes when I see the above offering of themed casino games, it makes me wonder how many gamers know Atari was a gaming company versus those who lived through the late 70s and played Atari games in arcades and on the 2600. There's a big marketing difference between associating Atari with gaming and associating it with the amazing feeling of playing those games.

It may seem like semantics, but as the brand ages, fewer consumers know what it's like to play Missile Command with a trackball versus finger-swiping at ICBMs on a smartphone. I feel there is a tremendous difference in terms of later generation's perception of Atari's legacy.

How much longer can the current partnership plop the Atari logo onto a product and expect a favorable return? They need to reinforce what the brand stands for. And I'm fairly certain that loose tie-ins with gambling isn't the answer.

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