Forty-five years ago today, Nolan Bushnell’s Atari company announced Pong as the company’s first arcade company. One of the games that started it all gets honored today with an official #PongDay declaration from Atari’s modern incarnation, along with some interesting new Pong-themed items.
In the past few months, the current incarnation of Atari has focused on making a pivot into being a “lifestyle brand.” Their first announced product was the Speakerhat, a baseball cap featuring a pair of Bluetooth speakers, a microphone, and the associated hardware built in. For the Pong forty-fifth anniversary announcement, they showed off a new, limited edition version of the Speakerhat built around a Pong theme.
They also showcased the ATARI Table Pong coffee-table game. Originally a Kickstarter project that was successfully funded in April 2017, the physical Pong coffee table should be making its way to the living rooms of Kickstarter backers sometime this December, with wider availability coming in 2018. At an expected $1,600 per unit, it’s a bit out of this writer’s budget, but Santa, I’ve been very good this year…
It should be noted, that the current incarnation of Atari has little, aside from the name and a few IPs, in common with the original Atari company that created Pong. The original Atari company was born in 1972, created Pong, launched the Atari 2600 console, and became the driving force behind the first wave of home video games. This company closed its doors in 1984, eight years after being sold to Warner Communications. Its successor came about when Tramel Technology, Ltd. bought Atari’s assets from Warner, and rebranded itself as Atari. That company was ultimately sold to Hasbro Interactive, which was sold to Infogrames Interactive in 2001. In 2003, Infogrames renamed the entire company to Atari Interactive, Inc. and refocused its use on the Atari brand.
While a lifestyle brand and IP caretaker isn’t the most exciting direction, it is nice to see the Atari name still kept alive. With nostalgia for the late ’70s and early ’80s currently going strong, maybe Atari is due for another revolution?