7 Things The Atari Bankruptcy Teaches us


Research tells us a positive outlook is linked to a healthier life. With this in mind, Atari’s bankruptcy has so many positive takeaways worth focusing on. Before we go any further, it may be worth informing you of an excellent article on this sad situation from contributing TMCnet writer Steve Anderson. One point I’ll make for those of you who may not be aware – Atari is one of the companies that got me into technology – I played the company’s Pong when I was a kid and instantly fell in love. Space Invaders a few months later sealed the deal.

When I wrote my first video game on a Commodore 64 it was a Centipede clone – I basically borrowed the game idea from Atari. Here is a company that had it all – content – coolness, great video game designers and more. What does their demise teach us? Plenty. Let’s go through the lessons which apply to tech companies in general.

Stay paranoid: you are never untouchable. Even if you think you are the king, you can be dethroned in the blink of an eye. In technology you have to be paranoid – being best means being a target.

Stay hungry: I’m still an Asteroids fan and countless others are as well. Could this video game have spawned a licensing boom? Even today? Probably. What about a book? Movies? A cartoon series. If your company doesn’t explore the limits of its success with new products which tap into your successful brands, you are doomed.

Pay attention: Where was Atari when social gaming took off? How did they benefit from the app explosion? Obviously they didn’t do as much as they should have. The amazing thing however is they tried – just unsuccessfully. In October of 2011 for example they partnered with Zynga. The company even tried an ad-supported HTML5 game strategy which makes sense but obviously wasn’t the blockbuster needed to pay the bills and past debt.

Content is still king: The brands this company has can be very valuable if they are effectively unleashed.

Management matters: This morning CNBC re-ran a special where John Sculley mentioned that in Fortune 500 companies, CEOs are ousted all the time but in the case of Apple – losing Steve Jobs was a mistake. Point being, don’t think your company can run well with any team in charge of it.

Don’t lose focus: Atari produced the first home gaming systems most people used – yet this market didn’t disappear… In fact Microsoft showed you could enter this space very late and still develop a leadership position. It is incredible that Atari let this lead slip away.

Technology matters: Microsoft Kinect revolutionized Xbox – one wonders what sort of amazing technology we would be gaming with at home if Atari capitalized on its lead in the space which dated back to the early eighties.

If you want to see Apple CEO John Sculley live – be at ITEXPO next week in Miami, FL to hear his keynote.

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