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July 2014 Retro Gaming Article


July 22, 2014 Retro Gaming Blog Post:

Atari CEO believes fast-food makeovers of iconic games is a “brand exposure” strategy

Denny's Atari-styled website header I've loved Atari since purchasing a 2600 console in the late seventies. I'd discovered the joy of Space Invaders in a local bowling alley and was delighted when it was later released on the Atari 2600.

Atari logo made up of bacon In those days "Atari" was synonymous with "video games". The Nolan Bushnell company that I loved ceased shortly after my first Atari purchase. However, the company forged ahead in many incarnations under various leaders. Their retro IPs have always been a high point. Beloved by many, the Atari brand is as recognizable today as it was in the 70's.

However, Atari seems farther from it's roots than ever. They've released reboots of their elder iconic arcade titles for the web, mobile platforms and classic collections on Sony & Microsoft consoles. Such efforts retain some of the original "magic" while keeping the Atari brand alive in the retail environment.

I wouldn't suggest they continually repackage Asteroids as a revenue stream, but it wouldn't hurt to be in the public's mind... right? However, re-skinning it as Hashteroids for a Denny's fast-food hash brown tie-in seems a frivolous waste and dilution of a valuable IP.

In 2011 they rebooted Yar's Revenge as an online game. It was met with a lot of criticism, but I liked the update and was happy to see the iconic title back in action. Hasteroids? Take-Out? WTF!?!

Denny's partnership with Atari is part of a history of quirky advertising strategies by Denny's. With millions of smart phones and tablets loaded with games, Denny's wants to leverage it to try reaching new customers & build a stronger bond with existing connoisseurs of cheap food. Released on iOS and Android, Denny's Greatest Hits Remixed games tie in with their current menu offerings by the same name.

Atari games altered for Denny's fast food promotional app A quote from Atari's CEO makes me wonder if he understands his IP's value and the difference between brand exposure & expansion as opposed to transformation!

"We are excited to be partnering with Denny's on this partnership. Transforming our classic and beloved games into a retro, remixed promotion will be a natural way to expose our brand to a new generation and resonate with our long-time fans in a fun and unique way," Atari chief executive officer Fred Chesnais said.

Hasteroids game cart mock up Hashteroids on a mobile phone is a disposable triviality that won't likely spawn interest in the Atari brand. Asteroids was a successful game that helped spawn an entire industry (in a manner of speaking).

Can Chesnais really believe that this Denny's promotion is at all helpful to the Atari brand? Exposing a brand means introducing it to those that are not familiar with it. This promotion is a windfall for Denny's. They get to link their menu items to "Atari". They want to sell more food!

What is Atari getting from this? How does a mock-up 2600 cartridge with a Hashteroids label benefit Atari? Most people who are not familiar with Atari's classic games are also not familiar with the old game carts. If you're not familiar with Atari, I doubt you know what game carts looked like in the 1980's.

This is an awesome partnership for Denny's! Any link they can achieve to the beloved Atari IPs will only benefit them. Atari has recently been quoted saying they want to go beyond just putting logos on a t-shirt. I understand the desire and savvy behind that idea, but at least the logo on a shirt doesn't alter or transform the brand. It expands/preserves it.

Creating a mobile game with a strong tie-in to a non-gaming entity doesn't seem to benefit Atari as a gaming company. Even if they go down the path of online gambling, hash browns seem a poor choice. They say all publicity is "good" publicity, but this partnership does little to define or expand the Atari brand. Recently emerging from bankruptcy, this may simply be a lucrative move to score some capital. Who knows...

I'd rather see Atari-logo t-shirts! I can't even remember the last time I saw an Atari shirt in a retail store. :)

What Would Mario Do?

Nintendo has a long history with McDonalds from play areas with Nintendo consoles to Nintendo Wifi Zones and Happy Meal Toys. Never do you see Mario in a clown wig or donning the Hamburgler's striped suit. He's Mario and he's iconic. You don't mess with that. Take note, Atari!

McDonalds currently has Mario Kart Happy Meal toys and you won't find any alterations to Mario. He's Nintendo's primary brand, so he may be packaged in a McDonald's product, but you won't find any Super Mario Fries or Luigi Milkshakes. Mario belongs to Nintendo and with McDonalds, they can showcase their brand to a myriad of children who will instantly tell Mom & Dad they need a Wii U and Mario Kart. Take note, Atari!

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