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Atari reveals plans for social gaming push

Atari has been looking closely at the modern video game industry to identify the direction it should take next.  According to current CEO Jim Wilson, who has been speaking to CNN, their new approach will be to continue building a library of updated classic titles, while also moving into the burgeoning social gaming market.

Atari has already started to change their mobile gaming strategy and adapt well-known titles for iOS and Android. Asteroids: Gunner and Breakout: Boost are two of the most recent, and show Atari’s adoption of the “freemium” model, where the game is free to download, but in-app purchases are often needed to advance in the game or unlock new levels.

Breakout: Boost attracted 2 million downloads during its launch month, and Asteroids: Gunner reached the iTunes Top 10 list in its first two weeks of release.  Mr. Wilson says Atari’s brand name is very recognizable, and this “discoverability” is crucial to success in the App Store.

The company has between 10 and 15 new titles planned for the coming year, some of which will be re-releases, while others will be new titles created by outside developers, but remaining true to the brand. The intention is to “bring back a powerful brand that consumers know and love” according to Wilson, but can some re-hashed classics and a series of social games do that?

It will perhaps depend on their definition of “social gaming”, as more-often-than-not, this means free games that rely heavily on in-app purchases to succeed.

Having already had a go at the MMO genre with City of Heroes before selling off Cryptic Studios, Atari’s plan is to appeal to gamers outside their existing fanbase, indicating it’s targeting companies such as Zynga rather than Blizzard this time around.

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