Under CEO Fred Chesnais, Atari is a company with just 28 employees. That’s pretty small for the oldest brand in video games. But during the pandemic, Atari’s small size helped it operate with a lot fewer risks than other companies. In this exclusive interview Atari Ceo Fred Chesnais Vcstakahashiventurebeat discusses his journey to the top of one of the world’s most
Chesnais bought Atari out of bankruptcy in 2013, when the company’s revenues had sunk to just $1.2 million and the company carried a debt of $34 million. For the year ended March 31, 2020, Atari reported a profit of $2.4 million on revenue of $29.4 million.
Much of that revival comes from the success of the Rollercoaster Tycoon brand on multiple game platforms. That license will expire in a couple of years, but Atari has made the most of it in generating revenues that have helped the company with its comeback.
Now the New York company is working with a variety of partners who can leverage the Atari brand, including hotel companies and blockchain-based fashion companies that are issuing Atari-branded virtual clothing. Atari has also begun shipping its long-awaited VCS consoles, which it originally announced back in 2017. That project ran into several hurdles along the way.
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Fred Chesnais: We’re launching our partnership with Enjin. We started with WAX, and WAX is interesting in the sense that they have a huge audience. Interview Ceo Fred Chesnais Vcstakahashiventurebeat We made our first sale there. Those NFTs (non-fungible tokens), I would say, are static. You buy them and own them, but there’s not much you can do except resell them.
With Enjin it’s a slightly different type of NFT. We’re trying to embed more functionality, like wearing a T-shirt online. You can take the NFT and edit your photos to show it off on yourself. You don’t have to buy the goods. That’s the second type. Only some of these NFTs will be available against Atari tokens. They’re pretty cool.
Moving on to the third type of NFTs, because each partner has certain strengths, we’re working with Animoca. We have a big license with them. They have the right to use 17 of our games on the blockchain. The first use case out there is The Sandbox, if you’ve followed that.
Atari is the second largest landowner in The Sandbox, this virtual world on the blockchain. We’re releasing assets and NFTs with The Sandbox, and so far it’s done quite well. Atari is pushing to have more assets and more games, like Rollercoaster assets in The Sandbox.
Chesnais: The first part of the game is just collecting and ownership. Think of it like baseball cards. You buy the cards and trade them and build a collection. The next step is these more interactive NFTs. You buy that Ferrari, a limited edition, and you can show it off in your photos. And then you can have card games.
Look at what Animoca is doing with their Formula One racing game. It’s like a management game, Football Manager, except the number of players you can have is limited. Therefore they have value.
If you create a card game, you can have a limited number of cards. Players can keep or resell those cards, or even craft another type of card. You see what people do with things like Hearthstone. The NFTs are cards you can use in the game.
And you have other types of games on the blockchain. Back to the Formula One game, you can buy and sell parts to build the best car to win races.
Chesnais: Right. The NFTs are the essential parts of the game. Something like cards can be limited in number. You have better security. Interview Ceo Fred Chesnais Vcstakahashiventurebeat You can buy and resell them one-on-one. But the developer will still make money by selling them at their origin.
Chesnais: Oh, yes. We’re working on a skill-based mobile game on the blockchain, where the winner will take 90 and we’ll keep 10.
We’re humble. We’ll team up with people who we believe can bring something. Money-wise — right now everyone in the space is trying. We’re basically throwing darts. But what people like about the blockchain, they understand the rules.
They feel that no one can cheat. You can trace the results. If you have a certain number of cards, you know no one can print any more than what you’ve been told. And there’s a bit of bragging rights to it, right? Getting in and playing on the blockchain at the beginning.
Casinos on the blockchain are pretty cool. You’re sure that the machine delivers you the published results. It pays right away every time. You can cash out. No one is going to tell you, “No, you can’t make a withdrawal.” And we’re just at the beginning.
We want to keep adding distribution channels in the U.S. and Australia. In Australia we’re done already. It’s just a question of delivering more units. Europe will come in the second stage. But the point is we have the machines, and we’ll keep adding more.
People understand that it’s a powerful mini-computer. The economics are good. It’s very modular and flexible. We’ll have different retail prices in different locations. You can look at our website.
We’re doing promotions and different packages for things like the controller and joystick. There’s going to be one machine with 8 gigabytes of memory. When you look at the value of the different pieces, it’s a fairly cheap mini-computer.
We had an announcement about two months ago. They set a date in 2022, I believe. It’s a very nice design. The architecture firm, Gensler, is one of the best in the U.S. What’s interesting about the hotels is that the new concept — not only Atari, but any new hotel being built today will take into account the lessons of the pandemic. We’re not at a bad moment for coming up with new concepts, whether it’s Atari or not Atari.
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