Over recent months Atari have made a bit of an impression on the gaming world, with the reboot and revamp of not just the iconic name, but some classic games through their Recharged series – Centipede, Black Widow, Asteroids and Breakout. With a rich history behind them, we reached out to Atari to find out what has been behind their resurgence – Wade Rosen, Atari CEO was more than happy to tell all.
Please introduce yourself and your role at Atari?
Wade Rosen, CEO of Atari.
How have the first 12 months or so gone since you became CEO?
The last 12 months have been incredibly busy, challenging at times, and ultimately very rewarding. A year into the role, I can visualize where we are taking the company; we have a strong, growing team that is aligned behind our goals; and we are building some lasting relationships with strong industry partners. I am very excited about the next 12 months.
Did you own any Atari consoles growing up and if so, what was your game of choice back then?
My first exposure to Atari wasn’t a game console at all, but our family PC. Hidden among the bundled PC classics like Minesweeper were fantastically addictive versions of Centipede, Asteroids, Tempest, and Missile Command. I played them all constantly and depending on when you asked me, I would have a different favorite. Missile Command controlled phenomenally well with a mouse, while Asteroids and Centipede had such addictive game loops, but Tempest was probably the one that hooked me the most and kept me coming back.
Getting down to the nitty-gritty of the Recharged series — how was the decision made on which titles to include first in this reimagining of the classics?
We wanted to set the tone for the series with some of our more recognizable and popular games from the coin-op era. The titles we chose were both fan favorites, and games that the development team was really motivated to work on. They are also a perfect fit for our 50th Anniversary. The second series of Recharged games is going to shift its focus away from the arcade era, which is going to be fun.
Will the art style be kept across any further titles as it has been for the original four?
I can say that the art style of the next wave of games is going to be a bit different. The “modern nostalgia” goal of the aesthetic will remain, but as the titles we revisit become more complex, the visual style will become more layered.
Putting you on the spot, which is your favorite Recharged game so far?
My favorite Recharged game is Centipede: Recharged because it’s the game that I play the most with my daughter. The two-player mode is the one we keep returning to and it’s been a really amazing experience to share something with her that I also adored at her age.
Will the release cycle of any follow-ups be able to keep up with the first raft of titles or will there be a break between the four we have now and anything to come?
We do have an update coming to all four titles in the first series that will expand content and gameplay options. We expect to announce the details soon. Stay tuned!
Will Adamvision be enlisted for the next Recharged releases?
The same team is already collaborating on the next set of Recharged titles, including Jason at Atari, Adam, Megan McDuffee, and the team at SneakyBox.
And has any decision been made on what games will be Recharged next? Is it too late to request Food Fight is included?
We are already working on a multiplayer remake of Food Fight. It is a title that is giving us a lot to work with, more than people might imagine from an 8-bit game from the 1980s.
The team is really enjoying working on it, and people are going to have a blast when it launches later this summer. If Food Fight gets recharged, it won’t be in the next series. Those games are already in development and will launch later this year.
In terms of what we have now, what was the main goal of reintroducing these games to the market and the more modern-day audiences?
There are a lot of new games on our roadmap. We are developing more Recharged titles, which modernize our classic games while staying true to the original gameplay. The Recharged titles allow fans to play the classic games again on modern devices, and to share the experience through co-op play with people in their lives that are important to them. They also introduce these iconic games to a new generation of players. We are also working on titles that are based on a classic Atari IP but place the games in new genres and take them in completely new directions. And we are working on new titles with entirely new IP, which will allow us to expand the list of titles that are associated with the Atari brand.
Has it been difficult implementing synchronous multiplayer into titles such as Centipede and Black Widow?
It really has not been that difficult. Multiplayer is a core skill of the development team.. There are always a few things the team has to work out in the beginning for each title, but once the ground rules are laid down the work is straightforward and the outcome is flat-out fun. Co-op is really my favorite part of the Recharged experience.
It’s safe to say that the Challenge Mode is a hit, but what were the developmental challenges involved with adding that? Further, have there been any particular challenges in the Challenge mode across the games, that have had you, personally, stumped?
The challenges were a fun, creative exercise for the development team. They built what is best described as a “level-maker” early on which makes creating new challenge levels pretty easy. The real work is coming up with the concept for each challenge, and then balancing it so that it provides a fun experience that is easy to play but difficult to master.
The challenge modes really expand the gameplay experience. The producer of the series often refers to them as each game’s story mode. They are also an important complement to the power-ups. Many of the challenge modes are designed around specific power-ups, and by mastering them you also learn how best to utilize them in arcade mode.
Some of the challenge modes can be quite tricky. If you are ever stumped, my recommendation is to play them with a friend in co-op so you can figure out how to complete the challenge together.
Are there any plans for a physical collection to be brought out?
This is something we are actively discussing. There is a strong market for physical games, especially collectible versions, and unique bundles. We hope to have more to share on this front in the future.
Away from the Recharged series, has the VCS done as well as you expected?
In some ways, the Atari VCS has outperformed expectations by managing to ship a quality product in decent volumes in the midst of a pandemic that has brutalized the global supply chain. At this point, the VCS has established a strong cohort of supporters who believe in the product and support what we are doing, so that has been rewarding. But the VCS remains an early-stage platform, which will continue to iterate and expand along with the rest of our business.
And finally, long term, what are your hopes for reviving the Atari name?
I am very bullish on Atari’s future, and I think we are putting a very good plan in place to grow the business. Atari had a very meaningful place in both pop and gaming culture. Right now the brand is out of balance, with a large presence in popular culture, but only a small presence in modern gaming. We are working hard to change that. The Recharged titles are the first of many new games that we will be bringing to market. We also have the Atari VCS and its growing footprint, the Atari XP collectible cartridges, and we have other initiatives that will expand our presence in gaming even more. But as we make more games, and launch new initiatives, they are all going to remain true to what made the Atari brand great to begin with.
We love seeing the Atari name back at the forefront of the gaming scene and must give huge thanks to Wade for allowing us to fire some questions his way.