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March 2015 Retro Gaming Article


As Atari dilutes their brand, they take time off to derail one of their most promising allies- Llamasoft

If you know the name, Jeff Minter, you have probably played one of his legendary video games. As a designer and programmer, he's made some of the most influential games to grace both retro and modern consoles, starting with the Sinclair ZX80. Much of his work has come from the company he founded - Llamasoft.

Jeff Minter's TxK I first became aware of Minter's work after buying an Atari Jaguar in 1993. Excited to see Atari product on retail shelves, I had also heard that reboots of some classic titles would be making their way to the new 64-bit console. Tempest 2000 (T2K), released in 1994, was one of those titles - created by Jeff Minter.

Tempest 2000 defined what I loved about the Jaguar and gaming in general. That game alone warrants the purchase of a Jaguar - both in '93 and today! I also loved his Space Invaders Extreme!

Minter has taken Tempest's "tube" concept and applied it in a variety of ways, each time besting former efforts. Most recently he brought TxK to Sony and it was released for the Vita. If you own a Vita, you should definitely download TxK because it's a great game and it may not be available much longer...

Atari's Legal Department is on the Warpath

I've been following this story on the web (Polygon has had good coverage) and social media. Renown brand, Atari, has take time away from developing fast food mobile games and virtual casinos to quell Minter's creativity. Specifically, they are citing copyright issues and demanding a shutdown of his current TxK plans. Thus the PS4 release, among others, seems unlikely.

I've written a few articles about Atari's use of their "brand" and classic titles. From our perspective, they've done more to dilute and marginalize their IPs than expand and/or grow them. Atari recently released Asteroids Outpost, which seems inline with strengthening their future while minding the golden age IPs that still carry them. Alas, the game has nothing to do with the original arcade favorite. Asteroids Outpost simply capitalizes on the title - no relation to the original.

Atari has been bought, sold and divided so many times, it's logo is the sole survivor of their previous effort. Too much of what they do today seems to be short-term gains leveraging known IPs in any way possible. Did anyone really want to play Hashteroids and pilot a ketchup bottle shooting at Deny's hash browns?

Jeff Minter's TxK Sure, there are similarities between Minter's TxK and his former Atari T2K and the arcade classic. But the positive effect of a "Minter" game, like TxK, could indirectly do more for Atari's image than years worth of marketing drudgery! Minter has been in talks with Atari, hoping they would commission an officially licensed version from Minter. Instead, they want to shut down his efforts.

Let's see if Asteroids Outpost gets half the attention the Minter/Atari dispute gets. Atari - or whoever owns the name - should take a broader approach to their future and embrace folks like Minter who still has passion for the brand and the foresight to build upon it's greatness rather than jeopardize it for a short gain. Minter could accidentally bring more prosperity to Atari through his genius than Atari could muster by waving cease & desist paperwork.

Making allies seems a smarter move... unless Asteroids Outpost becomes a runaway success or maybe that arcade casino thing will pan out. If nothing else, you have to love Jeff Minter's ability to deftly summarize the scene in 140 characters. Jeff Minter tweet

Atari wants to shut down Minter's Tempest game project for PS4, TxK


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