DBAHC: Screw Atari (as bad as possible)

Atari is, no doubt, an institution in the gaming world. There have been many ups and downs, but they stay at the top of their game.

Looking for some older games, though, I found out that there have been some ideas that could have ruined it completely. Atari must have been ridiculously lucky to avoid these admittedly tempting concepts.

Given that Atari screwed quite a lot of people as it grew, it's about time someone screws them. Your ideas?
 
That ET project would have sunk anybody; it's a good thing for Sega that it only made 100,000 copies for the Master system because if it made all 5 million then they would have had to have some kind of ET Demolition Night at Comiskey Park.
 
The Pac-man port. Screw that up, and Atari not only loses gobs of money and good will, but they also don't have a franchise with enough appeal to withstand the Nintendo onslaught that nearly killed them in the mid-80s anyway.
 
Well the E.T. game was so rushed to get it on to the holiday shelves that no one tested it.

The red flashes in the final stage of play caused Thousands of seizures across the world and Seven children died.

The lawsuits and jailtime put an effective end to the company.
 
Well the E.T. game was so rushed to get it on to the holiday shelves that no one tested it.
Yeah, but admit it: before the cancelled (or should I say "withheld"? :) if you know what I mean) port was leaked to the internet, we all thought it could not be that bad. The double whammy of this game and a worse Pac-Man game could have damaged them a lot; then again, I doubt they would ever cease console production altogether.

The whole Nintendo deal was something to be reckoned with. But now they sell their products in Japan and other SEA countries. And Sega is almost entirely a European thing. I can't see them having any chance on the other side of the Atlantic, the markets are way too different.
 
The Pac-man port. Screw that up, and Atari not only loses gobs of money and good will, but they also don't have a franchise with enough appeal to withstand the Nintendo onslaught that nearly killed them in the mid-80s anyway.

Ah yes, Pac-Man: Atari's literal golden boy. I suppose the quickest way to screw Atari over is for them to never develop or somehow lose the rights to what has become pretty much console gaming's signature character, but that almost seems TOO cruel. It is possible they could botch his transition from arcade cabinet gaming to home gaming though, leaving Atari without a recognizable "brand" on which to sell their hardware or even 1st party software.

Everyone loves the origional Pac-Man to death, but its focus on score, fast paced but simplistic levels, and lack of over-arching progression showed it was clearly designed to be played in short sessions in aracades. Thankfully, by the late 1980's they'd realized the potential more powerful hardware gave from them to expand on the moveset of a fast rolling, forward-attacking ball-sphere: bringing us the first in the series of classical 2-D platformers Pacman: Out of the Maze. This could go wrong in one of two ways: either they decide not to run the risk of innovating with the classic formula, leaving the Pac-man franchise and thus the company to sink into obscurity, or alternatively make something so derivative of the Super Mario games they get swept under by Nintendo's upsurge.

Thankfully, Pac-Man's design allowed for a game with a radically different approach to Mario's slower, vertically-focused gameplay and its emphasis on percisision platforming: the split-second timing needed in some of his early games really show the game's Japanese routes and made it less attractive to a new gaming audience. Atari had a MUCH stronger feel on the pulse of the American market, though, and the need for console games to be accessable by even new gamers or those coming in from the arcades in order for their hobby and brand to grow. The implementation of Pac-Man's physics: slippery and bouncy like a ball should be, and with levels designed around them, his forward-chomping "Rev Roll" move which not only allowed for a wider variety of bosses and obstacles but also let players trade some maneuverability for an instant burst of speed and essential immunity from minor enemies for a short time, and a hit-point system that gave the player some breathing space to enjoy playing the level at their own pace without one mistake tossing them back to the beginning really set him apart and caused veteran and new gamers alike to go gah-gah over him. Out of the Maze really helped Atari push its home consules and not only gave it a real infusion of cash during the critical early 90's, but also attracted a good deal of 3rd party talent to develop games for her.
 
Ah yes, Pac-Man: Atari's literal golden boy. I suppose the quickest way to screw Atari over is for them to never develop or somehow lose the rights to what has become pretty much console gaming's signature character, but that almost seems TOO cruel. It is possible they could botch his transition from arcade cabinet gaming to home gaming though, leaving Atari without a recognizable "brand" on which to sell their hardware or even 1st party software.

Everyone loves the origional Pac-Man to death, but its focus on score, fast paced but simplistic levels, and lack of over-arching progression showed it was clearly designed to be played in short sessions in aracades. Thankfully, by the late 1980's they'd realized the potential more powerful hardware gave from them to expand on the moveset of a fast rolling, forward-attacking ball-sphere: bringing us the first in the series of classical 2-D platformers Pacman: Out of the Maze. This could go wrong in one of two ways: either they decide not to run the risk of innovating with the classic formula, leaving the Pac-man franchise and thus the company to sink into obscurity, or alternatively make something so derivative of the Super Mario games they get swept under by Nintendo's upsurge.

Thankfully, Pac-Man's design allowed for a game with a radically different approach to Mario's slower, vertically-focused gameplay and its emphasis on percisision platforming: the split-second timing needed in some of his early games really show the game's Japanese routes and made it less attractive to a new gaming audience. Atari had a MUCH stronger feel on the pulse of the American market, though, and the need for console games to be accessable by even new gamers or those coming in from the arcades in order for their hobby and brand to grow. The implementation of Pac-Man's physics: slippery and bouncy like a ball should be, and with levels designed around them, his forward-chomping "Rev Roll" move which not only allowed for a wider variety of bosses and obstacles but also let players trade some maneuverability for an instant burst of speed and essential immunity from minor enemies for a short time, and a hit-point system that gave the player some breathing space to enjoy playing the level at their own pace without one mistake tossing them back to the beginning really set him apart and caused veteran and new gamers alike to go gah-gah over him. Out of the Maze really helped Atari push its home consules and not only gave it a real infusion of cash during the critical early 90's, but also attracted a good deal of 3rd party talent to develop games for her.

OOC: Is Pac-Man just Sonic the Hedgehog in this timeline?
 
OOC: Is Pac-Man just Sonic the Hedgehog in this timeline?

(OOC: I took some inspiration from Sonic, yes. But that was more in terms of just the first step of moving from "old" formula to something that could viably push consoles and units. We know Sonic did it IOTL, and it fits well into establishing Atari as a more hegemonic force in the American market, but he could have gone off in other directions since.

Of course, I also thought of the Pacman World games and how it might "reverse engineer" into a 2-D formula and on less-advanced hardware.)
 
(OOC: I took some inspiration from Sonic, yes. But that was more in terms of just the first step of moving from "old" formula to something that could viably push consoles and units. We know Sonic did it IOTL, and it fits well into establishing Atari as a more hegemonic force in the American market, but he could have gone off in other directions since.)

OOC: That's fair.

IC: Honestly, I think the only way that you could get Atari to not be a major force in the world of gaming would be if Pac-Man Atari and ET failed miserably, instead of being a beloved classic and a mediocre cult hit, respectively. That said, a failed Atari might allow Sony to get involved in the world of gaming, they had tentative plans but Atari's refusal to work with them (and subsequent refusals from Nintendo) caused their investors to back out early, before Microsoft proved that a tech company could go into game consoles and make a killing. The problem was that by then it was too late. Sony couldn't compete with the Directium (OOC: OTL Xbox) consoles and decided again not to bother. That's an interesting butterfly.
 
OOC: That's fair.

IC: Honestly, I think the only way that you could get Atari to not be a major force in the world of gaming would be if Pac-Man Atari and ET failed miserably, instead of being a beloved classic and a mediocre cult hit, respectively. That said, a failed Atari might allow Sony to get involved in the world of gaming, they had tentative plans but Atari's refusal to work with them (and subsequent refusals from Nintendo) caused their investors to back out early, before Microsoft proved that a tech company could go into game consoles and make a killing. The problem was that by then it was too late. Sony couldn't compete with the Directium (OOC: OTL Xbox) consoles and decided again not to bother. That's an interesting butterfly.

Well, I can think of one other way. Don't quote me on this: its one of those corporate urban legends that's floating around, but supposedly in the late 80's Atari was supposedly considering setting up a contract to start development on what we'd eventually see as the Jaguar (I know right? A 64-bit consul that early on?) alongside their 4th-gen Panther consul. Thankfully, unlike alot of companies following the Video Game Crash Atari diden't split the company, meaning they could develop the prototypes in-house. Supposedly, the folks in the computer's department DID manage to make a system that... functioned without bursting into flames, but required so many work-arounds that it would have been next to impossible and prohibitively expensive to design a game that would run on it. The project was canceled in its infant stages, and the funds and technical expertise put towards the technical marvel that was the Lyn+. It was only really after breaking into Nintendo's virtual monopoly on the mobile market that they really started gaining ground relative to the Japanese.

If somebody on the staff had had an anurism or the marketing department had somehow taken over from the technical, the Panther and Lyn+ might not have been released, or in the later's case at least delayed until after Nintendo or some other company made a 2nd gen handheld. If the 3DO's attempt to break into the higher-def market showed anything, a Jaguar in the first few years of the 90's could have been a commercial flop. I personally think that, above anything else, was what convinced Sony that consul creation wasen't the place for any company not specializing in the things.

Atari succeeded where so many others failed for one key reason: they know that fun gameplay trumps graphical fidelity every time.
 
Well, I can think of one other way. Don't quote me on this: its one of those corporate urban legends that's floating around, but supposedly in the late 80's Atari was supposedly considering setting up a contract to start development on what we'd eventually see as the Jaguar (I know right? A 64-bit consul that early on?) alongside their 4th-gen Panther consul. Thankfully, unlike alot of companies following the Video Game Crash Atari diden't split the company, meaning they could develop the prototypes in-house. Supposedly, the folks in the computer's department DID manage to make a system that... functioned without bursting into flames, but required so many work-arounds that it would have been next to impossible and prohibitively expensive to design a game that would run on it. The project was canceled in its infant stages, and the funds and technical expertise put towards the technical marvel that was the Lyn+. It was only really after breaking into Nintendo's virtual monopoly on the mobile market that they really started gaining ground relative to the Japanese.

If somebody on the staff had had an anurism or the marketing department had somehow taken over from the technical, the Panther and Lyn+ might not have been released, or in the later's case at least delayed until after Nintendo or some other company made a 2nd gen handheld. If the 3DO's attempt to break into the higher-def market showed anything, a Jaguar in the first few years of the 90's could have been a commercial flop. I personally think that, above anything else, was what convinced Sony that consul creation wasen't the place for any company not specializing in the things.

Atari succeeded where so many others failed for one key reason: they know that fun gameplay trumps graphical fidelity every time.

OOC: That last line stings so badly, honestly. :p
 
Have them keep manufacturing the 2600 after putting the Super System into production.

I know, I know, it sounds insane, but Atari was actually considering continuing the 2600 as a 'low end' machine, with the Super System as the 'high end' machine...and then someone realized "Uh, what stops our cheap machine from undercutting our brand new machine?".

Terminating production of the 2600 prior to putting the 5200 into production seems elementary; I don't need my MBA to know how insane it would have been to keep cranking out antiquated equipment while trying to launch a new, more advanced (and expensive) system, both of which would be competing against ColecoVision which was a FAR more credible threat than Intellivision ever was. To stave off Coleco, Atari needed to go all in with the Super System, not screwing around with some insane 'high/low' plan.

Since Pac-Man is mentioned, you could also go with the most obvious Pac-related screw up they could have made: Not launch the Super System with Pac-Man as the pack-in. No matter how good the rest of the launch titles were (and Super System had one of the strongest launch rosters of all time), it would have killed the system and Atari both, because a crucial flaw was discovered when testing Pac-Man: The original Super System controller design was going to be an analogue stick. From what I've read, it was a great controller for a lot of really popular games...problem was, as it wasn't self-centering, and that made playing Pac-Man nearly impossible. The minute the developers discovered this, they scrapped the analog design and went with a spring loaded, self-centering, digital stick. Saved the system, IMHO...
 
As someone who owns an Atari 2600 myself, here's my proposal: Basically have them pull a SEGA in the hardware department. Let me explain.

Atari 2600: 1977-1984(Or 1992, for those "obscure game titles or bust" kind of people.)
Atari 5200: 1982-1984
Atari 7800: 1986-1992
Atari XEGS: 1987-1992(In OTL, this is a home computer system.)
Atari Jaguar: 1993-1996

Somehow make all these platforms co-exist with one another, have the 2600 & 7800 last longer, and turn the XEGS into a full-blown video game console, and not only would no one purchase the company, but a few former fans would outright claim that Atari was copying SEGA, despite the Sony Playstation being the "hip new trend" at the time. And yes, that would mean that all these consoles would be definitely past their prime when they finally bit the dust.
 
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