Atari pulls nostalgia power move and buys homebrew community forum

AtariAge is older than the current Atari incarnation – retro enough for you?

Planning a bit of retro fun over the weekend? The news that Atari is to acquire retro gaming forum AtariAge might dampen your enthusiasm or raise your spirits, depending on your point of view.

While the gaming community might be all agog for Starfield and Baldur's Gate 3, a substantial number still remember the "good old days" when game size was measured in kilobytes and consoles enjoyed a wood-effect exterior.

Atari certainly does and, despite some notable hiccups, recently unveiled the 2600+ console, described by the company as a "faithful recreation" of the original model. The device can accept original titles in its cartridge slot.

The company has, therefore, been getting serious about its IP and the games available for the hardware, which is where AtariAge comes in.

AtariAge started life as a community forum and repository for long-obsolete Atari hardware. Its forums cover a variety of consoles – including the venerable 2600 – and have been extended over the years to encompass Sega and Nintendo hardware as well as Texas Instruments, Apple, and Commodore kit.

While a figure has not been disclosed for the acquisition, the site's founder, Albert Yarusso, will become Atari's internal historian. Atari has also promised not to censor speech on the forums. A new e-commerce infrastructure is set to be put in place – something Yarusso had begun working on before Atari's involvement.

The change has mostly been met with approval by the community. After all, despite subscription options, enthusiasm for an obsolete platform will not keep the lights on by itself.

However, some users have expressed disquiet at the change. One said: "What often starts as idea for non-direct monetization, sooner or later brings questions about ROI, profitability and how to improve some KPIs like Average Revenue Per Active User."

An Atari representative responded: "All we can do is ask you to keep an open mind and give us time to prove you wrong."

Another member noted: "The reputation that Atari, SA has built up with a large chunk of the community over the past few years can be charitably described as less than stellar."

The acquisition carries the whiff of inevitability about it, particularly in light of Atari's plans to breathe life into the 2600 with a console capable of running the original's cartridges.

Yarusso said: "With the new 2600+ console, Atari is certainly interested in compelling, original content to augment that platform." ®

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