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Atari Games was an American producer of arcade games, and originally part of Atari Inc.
When, in 1984, Warner Communications sold the Atari Consumer division of Atari Inc. (which included the computer and home game console divisions) to Jack Tramiel (who named his company "Atari Corporation"), Warner initially retained the arcade coin-op division (Atari Coin), renaming it "Atari Games". The agreement between Tramiel and Warner Communications was that Atari Games must always include the "Games" after "Atari" on its logo and that Atari Games could not use the Atari brand at all in the consumer market (computers and home consoles). Unlike Atari Corp., Atari Games had most of the same employees and managers that had worked at the old Atari Inc. It had been somewhat isolated from disarray of the transfer process that occurred with Atari Consumer, since it was still being retained by its original parent and was able to carry on with many of its projects from before the transition as well. Atari Corp., in contrast, was freezing all projects, letting go of much of the original staff, and streamlining operations in general. However in 1985, controlling interest of Atari Games was sold to Namco (a company with strong past ties to Atari Inc.), who soon lost interest in operating an American subsidiary. In 1986 a group of employees bought Namco's share.
Atari Games continued to manufacture arcade games and, starting in 1987, also sold cartridges for the Nintendo Entertainment System under the Tengen brand name, including a version of Tetris. The companies exchanged a number of lawsuits in the late 1980s related to disputes over the rights to Tetris and Tengen's circumvention of Nintendo's lockout chip, which prevented third parties from creating unauthorized games. (Atari Games' legal battles with Nintendo should not be confused with those of its former parent company--Atari also exchanged lawsuits with Nintendo in the late 1980s and early 1990s.)
In 1989, Time-Life bought Warner Communications, forming Time Warner. In 1993 Time Warner once again bought a controlling interest in the company and changed the corporate name of Atari Games to Time Warner Interactive (TWI), but the latter company continued to market its new video games under the "Atari Games" label. In 1996, TWI was sold to WMS Industries (owners of the Williams, and Bally/Midway arcade brands) and reverted back to the name Atari Games. When Hasbro Interactive bought the remains of Atari Inc., the console manufacturer, and resurrected the Atari name in the home software arena, Atari Games was renamed Midway Games West by parent company Midway to avoid confusing two Atari brands. Midway left the arcade market to concentrate on home systems in 2001, ending at the same time Atari's pivotal influence in the arcade industry. Midway Games West, still producing games for home systems, was disbanded by Midway in early 2003 after a slump in game sales.
With the demise of Midway Games West went the last remnant of the original Atari company that started the whole video game industry. The name "Midway Games West" survives within Midway as a trademark copyright for video games (past and new) that use franchises that were originally created by Atari Games/Midway Games West.
Selected arcade games
- Area 51
- Championship Sprint
- Cyberball 2072
- Empire Strikes Back
- Escape from the Planet of Robot Monsters
- Gauntlet II
- Gauntlet Legends
- Hard Drivin'
- Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom
- Marble Madness
- Moto Frenzy
- Off the Wall
- Peter Packrat
- Race Drivin'
- Road Blasters
- Road Runner
- San Francisco Rush
- San Francisco Rush 2049
- S.T.U.N. Runner
- Steel Talons
- Super Sprint
- Atari Games' corporate name was actually Atari Games Corporation (not to be confused with Jack Tramiel's company whose corporate name was Atari Corporation without the "Games").
- Atari founder Nolan Bushnell wanted to purchase Atari Games when it was up for sale in 1996. However Time Warner chose to sell the company to WMS.
- Atari Inc.
- Atari Games Museum.
- A Brief Timeline of the Atari Divisions Initially Retained by Warner Communications, July 1984 to Present