Until, you know... E.T., video game crash, Atari ST, Lynx, Jaguar, oblivion... blah blah blaaaaaah.
Of course, Atari today is only Atari in name. It was bought by Hasbro in 1998, then Hasbro was bought by Infogrames in 2001, and then in 2003 Infogrames changed its name to Atari. It's a bit like, I dunno, changing your name to that of somebody you just bought a car off, and then turning up at their place of work and insisting to their boss: "I got this, for I am Grahem!"
"Do you mean 'Graham'?"
"...For I am Graham!"
It's a classic Ship of Theseus paradox; if something has had its components changed so many times, can it really be considered the same thing? The people responsible for "classic" Atari's decisions - both good and bad - are long gone.
Unfortunately, along with the name, logo, and a back catalogue of games, the new(ish) Atari also seems to have inherited its predecessor's knack for doing things which everybody but them can see is a really awful idea.
I'm specifically referring to the Atari VCS. No: not the original one. This new one that they announced last year as Ataribox, and that they're crowd-funding on Indiegogo starting May 30th. Yes: a major corporation is resorting to crowdfunding to make a thing - that's how confident they are that there's a market for it!
And they should have doubts, because this new Atari VCS is essentially a living room PC, which - as many other companies have learned to their peril - is something that nobody ever seems to want.
Initially the Atari VCS appeared to be catering for the nostalgia crowd, being pre-loaded with classic Atari games (all of which are, of course, available freely and illegally and easily online). Indeed, the design - with its faux wood veneer and joystick - is a clear homage to the Atari 2600.
However, they've since revealed that it'll be driven by Linux, and allow users to install compatible applications, games, streaming, internet access and this and that. It'll apparently have enough oomph to be comparible to a mid-range PC, but not powerful enough to run most high-end AAA releases.
It's a terrible idea. Like, in the long history of games industry bad ideas, it's up there with the Virtual Boy and Nokia N-Gage... but worse, because at least those had something distinct about them.
In fact, it's sheer ordinariness is what makes the VCS even more terrible than the other recent terrible idea Atari had; Speakerhat, a terrible baseball cap with speakers built into it. That sounds like a joke, but no; it really is something that Atari made. It beggars belief.
But what's most troubling about the Atari VCS is what it represents; a lack of broader thinking. Atari appears to be ignoring the utter failure of the living room PC market to date. The Steam Machines seemed to offer the best hope of such technology gaining a foothold, but have - by Valve's own admission - not sold well.
Consequently - and entirely justifiably - there doesn't seem to be a single person expecting the Atari VCS to be anything other than an utter failure.
Of course, it's a relatively minimal risk for Atari. The VCS crowd-funding campaign will, essentially, work as pre-orders, so Atari will be able to gauge interest (though a quick Google would also do the same), and ensure that they don't lose too much money.
Beyond that though? There simply isn't a market for something like this, and it's astonishing that Atari appears to be barrelling forwards with this project, utterly oblivious to that fact. Atari isn't positioned - and doesn't have the resources - to challenge Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo. It also doesn't seem to be offering anything sufficiently unique to make the VCS stand out in a market that even Microsoft is struggling to remain relevant in.
Yes, there'll be a load of old Atari 2600 games stuffed up its bottom, but - to most gamers - playing an Atari 2600 game holds as much appeal as watching a Harold Lloyd film does to a 14 year-old. This is the position Atari is in; it's a brand which has a certain degree of nostalgic appeal, but that's associated with gaming's distant past. It's games are so old that they don't even offer the sort of playability you might get from a Mega Drive or SNES game.
To succeed, the VCS needs to offer something distinct and must-have, but thus far Atari has revealed nothing that this $200 system (and that's just the base unit without controllers) can really call its own. Although it might... but unfortunately, Atari has been incredibly vague about what this VCS actually is.
Consequently, there's no hype around it... merely speculation, and gathering storm clouds which suggest that the Atari name will, once again, be associated with a flop.
I write all this not because I want to revel in the inevitable failure of the Atari VCS, but because I think it's a shame.
I had an Atari 2600. I had an Atari ST. I coveted the Lynx, and - despite Atari's best efforts to convince me otherwise - I really wanted the Jaguar to succeed. Heck, I even own an Atari-branded laptop bag. That logo still gives me warm, fuzzy, feels. When I saw it on screen during Blade Runner 2049, I felt both excited and sad; it was a glimpse at an alternate future where Atari had remained the biggest video game company in the world.
I dunno. I'm probably just wistful. Maybe Atari deserves the position it finds itself in, and when this new VCS fails to make any sort of impact - beyond hundreds of articles following up pieces like this one, in which we all bleat "I told you so" - it will have been because Atari has once again demonstrated a stark lack of both self-awareness, and zero understanding of the modern games industry.
Just as we all knew the Jaguar was going to fail, so we see the Atari VCS grinding towards an inevitable oblivion, like watching a slow-motion car accident.
There's no excitement building, merely a weary sense of the inevitable.