Atari turns focus to "premium gaming" as it moves away from free-to-play titles

Atari VCS
(Image credit: Atari)

Atari is turning its focus back to "premium games" as it moves to divest itself from many of its current free-to-play efforts.

The company announced the change to its strategy in a recent press release, framing the move as a pivot back toward Atari's long history in the games industry - and a way to build out the catalog for its own Atari VCS console, which started rolling out en masse in June after a successful crowdfunding campaign in May 2018.

”Our intent with any gaming experience is to provide accessible and joyful moments of meaningful play,"  Atari CEO Wade J. Rosen said in the press release. "That’s the core of Atari and what binds our history with our future. To that end, we feel that premium gaming is better representative of this type of gaming experience and the Atari DNA." 

The company says it will "leverage its catalog of 200 proprietary games" to make premium titles across all platforms; the first such projects are in development now, with initial releases planned to arrive by the end of Atari's 2021/2022 fiscal year on March 31, 2022. Atari's catalog includes a number of games from the classic Atari days, as well as titles from former French publisher Infogrames, which bought the Atari brand from Hasbro back in 2000.

Atari's most successful free-to-play games will continue, but the company plans to either sell off or shut down five others: RCT Stories, Crystal Castles, Castles & Catapults, Ninja Golf, and Atari Combat: Tank Fury. The company will also free up more resources for its premium gaming push by ending its efforts at making Atari Casinos in Africa and by exiting direct TV show production (though it will continue to look for licensing agreements for its properties).

While the Atari of today is very different from the Atari of the '80s, let it never be said that the company is afraid to make big moves. Sometimes those moves look like making hats with built-in speakers or hotels with giant Atari logos on them, sure, but it always has something cooking. We'll have to wait and see how this latest pivot works out for the company.

Did you know you can run Cyberpunk 2077 on Atari VCS? It's not at all what the system is made to do, but it's still technically playable!

Connor Sheridan

I got a BA in journalism from Central Michigan University - though the best education I received there was from CM Life, its student-run newspaper. Long before that, I started pursuing my degree in video games by bugging my older brother to let me play Zelda on the Super Nintendo. I've previously been a news intern for GameSpot, a news writer for CVG, and now I'm a staff writer here at GamesRadar.