Retronomicon: Evercade #5: Atari Collection #2

The second Atari collection.

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Retronomicon: Evercade Review #1 Atari Collection One

Atari Collection #1 for the #1 review of the #1 retro handheld.

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Retronomicon: Evercade Announces Lynx Collection 2

Coming this year.

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Roller Coaster Tycoon 3 Spurs Frontier Lawsuit Against Atari

Frontier Developments is currently best known for their hit title Planet Coaster, of course when people aren’t thinking of them as the developer of that Star Citizen-esque game that actually saw release. Odds are you’ll also remember them as being the developer behind Roller Coaster Tycoon 3, because I just told you they were. The news today is that Frontier Developments is suing Atari over what it claims are $2.2 million in unpaid royalties.

“We can confirm Frontier is currently pursuing a complaint against Atari. We have attempted to resolve this issue without legal action since April 2016. We have so far been denied our contractual right to audit by Atari, and we are unfortunately left with no other way to resolve our concerns. We are unable to offer any further comment while the matter is subject to due legal process.”

Here’s where it gets weird. First, of all people, TMZ broke the story. According to the news article, Frontier Developments is citing a Steam tracking website (likely Steam Spy) in their claim that Atari owes them $2.2 million, following with a lawsuit because Atari has been delaying an audit which Frontier is entitled to in their contract. Secondly, it is odd to see a developer using something like Steam Spy as a source. For the record, it is impossible for third party services to count how many people own a certain game, that information isn’t publicly available. They guess, using data from accounts that are public, and do not claim to be accurate.

Imagine users as voters, but instead of voting for one of three candidates, they’re voting for several games from tens of thousands available in Steam catalog. Even the most popular paid games are reaching maybe 5% of this audience and most are in realms of 0.1% or even less.
So 0.1% margin of error for a game with 0.1% of Steam audience would produce results that are mostly useless. That’s why Steam Spy has to gather millions points of data daily to predict games sales and audience. And that’s why Steam Spy is often wrong. Not by much, but still wrong.

At a $2.2 million difference comparing sales to Steam Spy, it’s rather believable that Atari shorted Frontier Develoments on some level, and you could be forgiven for taking the delays as a sign that the company is hiding something.

Or maybe nobody at the shell corporation that calls itself Atari answers their email. I couldn’t get a single person to answer my requests for comment over Asteroids: Outpost.

Abandonware Asteroids: Outpost Yanked From Steam


Asteroids: Outpost was the subject of an Early Access Fraudster article back in March, I pointed out that the game had been abandoned by its developer (Salty Games) with no comment by its publisher (Atari, yes that Atari). As an online only game, the fact that the Asteroids servers had evidently been offline since November (as of March) were bad enough, the fact that the game was still up for sale was even worse, that players were attempting to report the game to Valve and getting nowhere is criminal.

Since that article’s posting, I have made numerous attempts to contact both Valve and Atari with no response from either party. Salty Games, as you would expect from a fly-by-night startup somewhere in Los Angeles has zero company presence in the form of a Salty Games account on Facebook, Twitter, etc. Atari doesn’t even seem to be too sure on who they’re working with, because the game’s product page on the Atari website calls them by two separate names: Salty Studios and Salty Games. I was able to track down several people on LinkedIn listing Salty Games as their former place of employment, and it appears that the studio has been defunct for over a year now. Gone before it ever discovered WordPress.

The important piece to take out of this article is that the game has finally been removed from Steam, seven months after my previous write-up. Atari, a company whose customer support and press relations are virtually non-existent since I tried to get answers by sending emails and submitting support queries, has not responded to a single email in those seven months. They completely ignored the fact that the game was still on sale despite being offline and unplayable for months on end, and it isn’t hard to believe that they won’t realize that the game has been pulled from sale until well into next year. The official website points toward Steam’s nonexistent store page, and the forum link ignorantly leads to a full page of warnings that the game is broken and to stay far away.

So while your dreams of an open world PvP sandbox turret defense MMO Asteroids spinoff may be squashed for the time being, the internet can once again feel safe knowing that another bad game is off the market.

MMOrning Shots: No Man Has Gone


For today’s MMOrning Shot, I figured that I would continue the trend by showcasing some of the earliest screenshots that we have of certain games. In this case, you’re looking at Star Trek Online sometime around early 2009. If you look closely, you can see that the captain is wearing pajama pants.

Atari: Star Trek Online Free To Play? Over Our Dead Bodies

Atari and I have never been on the best of terms.

 I believe I referred to Atari on a website that is not MMO Fallout, as an empty shell of a company that not only couldn’t keep itself on the NASDAQ stock listing, had a failed European branch, and has undergone more cosmetic surgery to change face than any other company in the business. Despite being relegated to the position of publisher for any notable title over the past decade, Atari has been downsized to the elderly man who keeps talking about his youth, and he buys up the younger crowd so he can live through them, even though his limbs are falling off from years of mistreatment.

Turns out John Smedley wasn’t the only creator desiring free to play, cut back by an unseen foe. In an interview, Cryptic’s Executive Producer on Star Trek Online Stephen D’Angelo stated that,  “We’ve always wanted the game to be free-to-play,” he says, “in fact we tried to make it free-to-play at the original launch, but our publisher [Atari] didn’t want us doing that so we didn’t do that.” You mean to tell me I could have obtained the entire Original Series cosmetic series without buying multiple copies of the game? What a kick in the teeth.

Of course Cryptic shares no blame in this, after all they were an owned subsidiary of Atari at the time and what Atari said was law. The article goes on to talk a bit about how Cryptic is handling the free to play switch, drastically different than the Champions Online conversion which was met with “mixed results,” according to the article.

Atari publicly dumped Cryptic Studios earlier this year, selling the studio to Perfect World Entertainment. The game is set to switch to free to play in January 2012.

Neverwinter Delayed, Atari Loses Rights To D&D

So many questions answered. The Atari Vs Hasbro lawsuit, who is developing Neverwinter, and what does this mean for Cryptic Studios?

A very long-awaited news line comes to a close today: Atari and Hasbro have settled their lawsuit and Atari has come out the loser in the deal. As announced on Gamespot today, Hasbro is regaining full rights to the digital licensing from Atari, meaning Atari will no longer be able to license Dungeons and Dragons games. As part of the settlement, Atari will still be able to sell and develop a selection of D&D games, from Daggerdale to an upcoming Facebook game.

Neverwinter is the other half of the lawsuit, especially considering the sale of Cryptic Studios to Perfect World Entertainment left a lot of questions unanswered. Did the game transfer with Cryptic? If not, who would develop it? Neverwinter now carries a “late 2012” release date, attributed to Perfect World Entertainment’s desire to invest in a more immersive experience.

The year delay hopefully signals that Perfect World Entertainment won’t be tolerating Cryptic’s habit of game development: Short development cycles that produced products that ultimately lack content and polish. With legal issues out of the way, hopefully development of Neverwinter can resume to its full extent.

Why Buy Cryptic Studios?

I’ve said this before, but I believe Neverwinter to be the root cause behind Cryptic losing money, compounding the loss that Star Trek Online put on the revenue from Champions Online, alongside a less than stellar launch by both titles. I don’t believe that either of the two titles performed as well as Cryptic had hoped they would, and only recently did Champions Online start producing a substantial amount of money. Tracking the reaction that Champions Online and Star Trek Online received is rather easy. Both games were touted as being developed with a system that could easily create large amounts of content quickly and at a low cost. However, when both games released after a very short (by MMO standards) development period, they launched with very little to distinguish themselves from the competition. Players blasted both games for a lack of content, heavy focus on the cash shop (more so during Bill Roper’s phase as leader), and Cryptic’s general lack of attention to the userbase.

At first I joked that Gamersfirst might buy up the game, turn them both into free to play cash shops trashed by cheaters and gold farmers (similar to their other games), but I have a feeling that if Cryptic is bought up and it isn’t by Jack Emmert as rumored, the buyer will be a company none of us have heard of before. Still, that hasn’t stopped the major news websites from speculating on what big name company will pick up Cryptic.

Going by the big names, Sony has enough on their plate at the moment, and I think the acquisition of Vanguard was enough to end any future purchases of games hemorrhaging money. EA/Mythic/Bioware won’t pick up the studio because of their own problems with All Points Bulletin, Warhammer Online, and the major upcoming release of The Old Republic and the possibility of a Mass Effect MMO. EA can’t afford to take on a sinking ship, not when they are already having trouble securing investors over the performance of their past MMOs. NCsoft won’t pick up Cryptic Studios because…well it’s NCsoft. The company has no second thoughts toward severing a limb to save the rest of the body, and this acquisition would be like finding a rotten leg in a creek and asking your doctor to sew it back on. Funcom is a no go, and Blizzard also has enough on their plates with World Of Warcraft, Project Titan, and their other games.

It’s a shame, too, because I have a feeling the Neverwinter MMO won’t be leaving Atari with Cryptic wherever they go, meaning the lack of that development cost will lift a heavy financial burden off of Cryptic’s arms. Perhaps with moving Star Trek Online free to play, as hinted last year, Cryptic could bring themselves back into the green and have two decent if not necessarily heavy hitters in the MMO field.

I’d love to see Cryptic find a new home where they can continue improving upon Star Trek Online and Champions Online. I also hope they can finagle Neverwinter Online to move with them. As I’ve said before, I think Cryptic’s knowledge of instancing can play to their favor in a game that will revolve around heavy instancing.

Cryptic Studios Discontinued, Being Sold Off

But wait, Omali, you say. Wasn’t Cryptic Studios recording a one thousand percent increase in revenue from Champions Online? Why would Atari be writing the company off? Cryptic may be better of than they were in 2009 ($17.9 million loss) at a $7.5 million loss for 2010, but a loss is a loss, and it looks like Atari is jumping ship. Actually, according to the financial report, the company has been “discontinued” since March 31st. Atari plans on continuing support for Champions Online and Star Trek Online, until a buyer can be found.

“In line with the previously stated strategy of fewer but more profitable releases and further expansion into casual online and mobile games, the Company has determined that external development creates more flexibility in the changing marketplace,”

The development of Neverwinter is apparently not altered by this news, at least for the time being.

So the question remains: Who is the buyer? I have a feeling Atari already has a buyer, and rumors are floating around that Jack Emmert (Cryptic Studios co-founder) is looking to rebuy his company. On the other hand, GamersFirst could always buy up the studio and turn both games into cash shops with games attached, filled to the brim with cheaters and gold farmers.

Source: Gamasutra

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