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As Buried Cartridges Are Unearthed, Atari Plots a Comeback


Once a formative trailblazer in the world of arcade games and home-game consoles, antiquated Atari is now looking to rise from the grave -- in more ways than one.

The company is in the midst of plotting a comeback -- again. While its previous resurrections focused on computers and even laser printers, Atari's latest plan is to concentrate on social and disrupting underserved markets.

The company plans on releasing a social-casino game and another game called Pridefest in which users will be able to create their own L.G.B.T. parades. It is also looking to leverage past titles -- like Asteroids -- as the basis for television shows.

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Leading the charge is Frederic Chesnais, a French gaming industry veteran. (This is his second stab at the CEO position at Atari.) He is not only hoping to target the demographic that grew up loving Atari but also people who aren't familiar with it.

“We’re trying to go after the young generation so they know what the brand is and what the brand means,” Chesnais told The New York Times. “It’s difficult, but we have to do it.”

All this despite having filed for bankruptcy last December, whittling down to fewer than a dozen employees and switching CEOs seven times over the past 14 years.

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At the same time that a new leader is seeking to breathe new life into the company by pivoting towards mobile and Facebook games, a brand new documentary slated for release later this year will confirm a long-rumored myth: The company once buried a trove of failed games in a New Mexico landfill.

That documentary, which is coincidentally being produced by Xbox, bears the working title, Atari: Game Over. It will depict how excavators, in April, unearthed hundreds of copies of Atari’s E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial -- often panned as one of the worst video games of all time -- in addition to joysticks and other Atari releases, including Ms. Pac-Man, Asteroids and Space Invaders. While no official record of the dump exists, it is still unclear why Atari chose to dispose of the merchandise as such.

Whether the company can reclaim its former stature or whether these latest efforts are merely akin to dredging up a discomfiting past remains to be seen.

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