Atari was one of the original video game companies and the entire gaming industry arguably owes its existence to it. While it seemingly died decades ago, new gaming offerings, retrospectives, and other recent news show that there still might be some life left in the brand after all.

Collage of six video game cartridges playable on the Atari 2600 system.

‘Jungle Hunt,’ ‘Missile Command,’ ‘Jr. Pac-Man,’ ‘Haunted House,’ ‘Kung-Fu Master,’ & ‘Infiltrate’ for the Atari 2600.

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Atari celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2022. The celebration wasn’t overwhelming but it certainly wasn’t underwhelming either. The official Atari YouTube channel features several interesting interviews and retrospectives with those who worked for the company in its glory years. One of the particularly noteworthy ones has current Atari CEO Wade Rosen interviewing Atari founder Nolan Bushnell.

Rosen and Bushnell’s conversation covers a bit of Atari’s history, with Bushnell emphasizing how creativity was one of the primary factors in the success of the company. Bushnell also says that, “Right now, it would be good to take the innovation legacy and push it forward into the future.” Rosen readily agrees with that, so that might be a good sign for gamers.

Another good interview features Warren Robinett talking about creating Adventure. In addition to him discussing what inspired him to make the game, the video reveals how he popularized the Easter egg (even though he didn’t create neither the concept nor the term). Adventure would go on to sell over one million copies for the Atari Video Computer System / 2600.

In 2022 the company released Atari 50: The Anniversary Celebration as well. The collection “takes players on an interactive journey through 50 years of video games, including a specially-curated list of more than 100 playable classics and six entirely new titles from the award-winning team at Digital Eclipse.” Included in the games are “extremely rare titles” from the long line of Atari platforms, computers, and consoles.

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Along with all the games included, the collection has introduced  “Interactive Timelines,” described by Atari information that combines bits of trivia with “all-new interviews with the original developers and industry leaders.”

Atari 50: The Anniversary Celebration is available for the Nintendo Switch, the PS4 and PS5, Xbox One and Xbox Series X/S, and Steam (and presumably the new Atari VCS). The game has been getting some great reviews, with outlets such as IGN giving the collection a 9 out of 10.

The fun doesn’t stop there. Through its Recharged series, Atari is releasing updated versions of classic games for all the current, major gaming systems and platforms. Yars’ Revenge, Missile Command, Breakout, Centipede, Asteroids, and more are already available. Caverns of Mars is up next. Gamers can get it in just a few days when it releases on March 9.

'Pitfall' and five other video game cartridges playable on the Atari 2600 system.

‘Pitfall’ (1982) and five other video games for the Atari 2600.

And for gamers looking for something that’s more or less new? Atari has that covered as well. Akka Arrh was a near-mythical prototype arcade game developed in the 1980s that never saw the light of day. Atari redeveloped in for modern systems and released it just last month, and it combines both vintage and contemporary elements.

Atari describes the gameplay as being “[a] cascade of words, color, shapes and sound flow[ing] around your turret as you desperately fight off swarms of inbound attackers.” Fighting perspective changes “in the blink of an eye” if “enemies penetrate your perimeter” and force “close range combat.” Both the game and the story behind it (see below video) sound fascinating.

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How well these new Atari offerings do remains to be seen. However, if sales of the Atari XP series (games for the 2600 system) are anything to go by, then things might be good for the classic brand. The Atari XP series have all sold out thus far.

Most of the offerings in the Atari XP series are reissues of classic 2600 titles such as Adventure, Missile Command, Warlords, and Yars’ Revenge. (By the way, Atari released a dramatized story of Yars’ Revenge on vinyl in the early 1980s.) But there are new titles too. Aquaventure, Saboteur, and Yars’ Return were developed in the 1980s but never released until last year. Again, all titles are sold out.

Yars' Return Atari 2600 video game packaging and cartridge.

‘Yars’ Return’ (2022) for the Atari 2600 Video Computer System.

There are some other positive signs for Atari enthusiasts as well. For example, on Feb. 21, Variety exclusively reported that, “Atari has signed with APA for representation.” Specifically, noting, “The pioneering video game company will work with APA to develop projects around its best known IP in the live-action, animation, and non-scripted film and television spaces.”

Some might groan at the thought of a live-action Q*Bert or Pac-Man, but both those IPs could work as children’s animation projects (such as they did in the 1980s). And titles such as Missile Command, Adventure, and Warlords could work as live-action projects. Or Atari could go the route of Apple TV+ and Tetris, and turn the tales behind the video games into the stories.

'Q*bert' (1983) video game cartridge playable on the Atari 2600 system.

‘Q*bert’ for the Atari 2600.

Nothing lasts forever and Atari is no exception. Still, while many may have thought it long just a footnote of history, it might yet mount a comeback. And if it succeeds in the gaming industry as well as the film and television industries, then its comeback could make it a prominent brand once more.

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    Paul Hair is an author who writes fiction and nonfiction under his own name and as a ghostwriter. Follow him on Gab (PaulHair). His fascinating books are available at his Amazon Author Page. Help support him by purchasing one or more of his titles.