Legendary games company Atari has accused a Register reporter of making stuff up and acting unprofessionally following an interview earlier this year in San Francisco at the launch of its new games console, the Atari VCS.
In that article, we were critical of the fact that the machine did not work, and that its chief operating officer Michael Arzt, whom we spoke to, appeared unable to answer even the most basic questions about the product. We were shown "engineering design models" that did not work, and pointed out as much.
Subsequently, a potential buyer of a Atari VCS posted a link to the article on the company's Facebook page, and asked the biz to explain it. Atari responded:
We honestly can't explain that article either. Our executives sat with that reporter for half an hour and he wrote what he wanted instead of what was discussed with him. Sadly there are even irresponsible trolls in 'professional' positions i guess.
We clearly said that we were bringing engineering design models to GDC and lots of people clearly don't understand what that means. Hunks of plastic? Well, yeah, that's how you finalize the designs and confirm that you can get the look and feel you want for the finished products. Sad.
While we at The Register often take a light-hearted and critical perspective on the news of the day, we take our professional obligations as reporters very seriously.
In that capacity, we would like to formally apologize to both Atari and Michael Arzt for digging out a recording of the interview – and for the following article in which we highlight that Atari is so full of crap that it should be designated a hazardous waste zone.
You can find the entire 30-minute interview at the bottom, but here are a few short clips covering the most salient parts.
Strap in, here we go
In the article, we wrote: "What happens if we plug this into our laptop, we ask Mike. I don't know, he says. Will it work? I don't know. If we plug it into a different games machine, will it work? No. So it's custom hardware and software? I don't know about that."
Presumably this is where Atari feels that the reporter "wrote what he wanted instead of what was discussed with him."
Which makes this clip tough to explain – and we'll give you a clue: your humble Reg hack is the one with the British accent...
In the article, we note: "Mike tries to tell us that big product launches are suspended all the time. We tell him they really aren't, and on the rare occasion that they are, the company goes out of its way to explain why and give a new launch timeline."
Just another example of professional trolling? We'll leave that to you to decide; here's the relevant clip:
Also in the article we asserted that Arzt compared Atari's last-minute cancelled launch of the console months earlier to the launch of a rocket by NASA. (Which is, of course, absurd.) Just another example of fake news? Perhaps not.
We were also vocal about the fact that Atari's answers – in particular the fact that it still hadn't decided what chip it was going to use in its hardware – gave us seriously reason for pause. We can't imagine where we got that idea:
Atari's response on Facebook isn't a total surprise. We sensed a little, just a little, frustration the executive's voice.
Hey, at least Atari answered all our questions openly and expansively. Um...
The truth is that even despite all that, Atari and Arzt obviously, so clearly, had no reason to believe, following our conversation, that we were likely to write a negative article in response to the answers we were given.
And on top of that, Atari was extremely clear about the reason it had invited us – during the very busy Games Developer Conference – to meet up with it. There was never any indication that the actual games console would be there and would actually work. Yes, we're being sarcastic.
And it was therefore extremely misleading of us to suggest after the fact and in the article that we ever expected to be able to use the console at a showcase event. We never gave any indication that we were surprised by the fact that we were basically shown several pieces of plastic. We certainly never mentioned that we expected to play a game. Nope, that never happened.
But most of all, we would like to apologize, sincerely, to all our readers and to anyone considering putting down money for the Atari VCS for completely omitting a critical part of the interview in our original article.
We made no mention of the fact that there is every reason to believe that Atari's entire enterprise is being funded by hype and that the only way the company can afford to create even its first console is by persuading people to hand over their cash before the company itself has a working prototype.
So if you do fancy gambling several hundred dollars or quid on some retro gear, we can only encourage you to preorder an Atari VCS right now – there is only a week left on its capital-raising Indiegogo offering.
Don't worry, you won't be alone: there are more than 11,000 other punters out there. ®
Here's the full 30-minute interview.