How much do you know about Atari? You’ve probably heard of the 2600 console and games including “Pitfall!” and “Space Invaders,” but how much do you know about the company’s history?
The history of Atari started when the company was founded by Nolan Bushnell and Ted Dabney. Before Bushnell launched the new company he sold a space combat game titled “Computer Space.” It was based on a 1962 game. Bushnell sold the game to a company that produced 1,500 units. However, the game didn’t sell very well.
However, Bushnell would bounce back when he and Dabney launched Atari in 1972. The name is derived from the Japanese name Go. The first choice for the company’s name was “Syzygy” but it was not available.
In November of that year, the company set up assembly facilities in a building that was formerly a roller skating rink. They hired some people to start mass producing the game “Pong.” The game went on to be a big hit. Up to 10,000 units were produced, which was over 3x the number of pinball machines that were usually made during production runs.
Bushnell bought Dabney’s half of Atari and launched a company called Kee Games. This allowed the company to sell more games as a so-called competitor of Atari. That year Atari earned $3.2 million in revenue. That would over $17.5 million in 2016.
Another big development of Atari was the creation of a home console version of “Pong.” It was developed in 1974 and showcased during the next year. It was the first console that the company publically introduced. Atari teamed up with Sears to sell the console game. Home pong was a big hit and sold 150,000 units. The company was able to rack up $40 million in sales and $3 million profit in 1975.
An interesting point in the company’s history was when Bushnell hired Steve Jobs to develop the game “Breakout.” Jobs and Steve Wozniak spent five days to design the game. Bushnell paid Jobs $5,000 but Jobs only gave $350 to Wozniak.
Another big event also happened in 1976. That’s when Bushnell sold Atari to Warner Communications for $28 million. During the next year, Atari released the Atari VCS (Video Computer System). It has a retail price of $200. It was bundled with 9 games that were versions of popular Atari arcade games.
In 1978 Atari launched its home CPU, division. The company wanted to make sure that the home computer and video game console divisions were separate. Atari also started to focus on theyear-round promotion of its games. Popular games that were released during the next year included “Space Invaders” and “Pac-Man,”
Another big event that affected the company was the release of “E.T.” based on the hit movie. The game received bad reviews based on the game’s design and gameplay. It resulted in a steep drop in game sales.
Since then Atari has been sold multiple times. It is now owned by a French umbrella company and continues to develop and publish games.