There is nothing like a good company naming challenge, but I think that a company called Infogrames has set what might seem like an impossible goal for itself by striving to rehabilitate the Atari name. Yes, Atari.
They bought the name for $11 million and are pumping even more cash into it in an attempt to make it their own.
This is a name that has taken quite a beating over the years, including a Nasdaq delisting a month ago, and has become a name that some simply feel is cursed.
Atari’s history is incredibly complex, but each strand of the story always ends in disaster. Nevertheless, CEO David Gardner feels that the Atari name is still recognizable to anyone who has ever played a video game and that the name will communicate that his company is the “best-funded, best-branded, most energetic start-up in the history of computer gaming.”
One of the reasons that the Atari name lives on is because of its interesting origins. Atari comes to us from the ancient game of Go and is used in a similar manner to check in chess. Being “in atari” means that you are about to lose a game piece unless you move quickly.
There is no doubt that this ancient name, with its roots in ancient gaming, is, at least in heart, a winner.
I can hear the howls of laughter out there already in the blogosphere.
Yes, this is the same company that gave us some of the weirdest games ever, including the Joyboard and the little known Atari Puffer as well as a whole slew of others that are still only known in the world of retro-gaming.
But interestingly, when Infogrames was looking for a new name, they went to Google and discovered that all the good names they came up with were taken, a lament that I am not unfamiliar with. Infogrames apparently then decided to take on the brand name that they already had, Atari, a name with instant worldwide recognition.
Can the Atari name actually make a comeback? I’m going to say yes, but some very big changes have to be made if Infogrames wants to avoid the Atari Curse.
Blake Snow has some good pointers on the Next Generation that I think should be read very carefully.
The first is that the the various manifestations of the Atari naming have to be combined into one entity. Right now we have Atari Interactive, Atari Corporation, Atari Games and Infogrames' recent purchase. This all must be turned into Atari, Inc.
If this is done, the next step is an obvious one, Atari, Inc. needs to create great products that everybody wants. By great products, I mean revolutionary. Offering us a consolidated, recognizable name behind a really cool must have product would immediately wash away Atari’s history of failure in the minds of the consumer.
Anyone who has ever bought an iPod knows exactly what I am talking about.
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