NEWS - Tuesday, May 20, 2003

Atari Shares Sink; ’Matrix’ Selling

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Have investors entered "The Matrix" and then left again just as quickly? Shares in video game publisher Atari Inc. sank on Tuesday, their fourth straight day of losses, as "Enter the Matrix," the company’s biggest-budget game yet, faced early negative reviews despite signs of strong sales. After the April 17 announcement that the $30-million game had been completed, shares in Atari, formerly known as Infogrames Inc., went on a run, gaining about 200 percent through May 14, the day before the game’s launch. But since May 14 the stock has been sliding, losing almost 28 percent, although it is still up 168 percent in 2003. Analysts have said "Enter the Matrix" is key to the company’s fortunes, especially as it faces bond payments over the next two years. "Enter the Matrix" represented an unusually tight collaboration with Hollywood. The Wachowski brothers, who wrote and directed the film, wrote the game as well and shot an hour of footage with their actors specifically for the game. The film has broken box office records and initial data show the game as a top-seller on in the United States and more generally in the United Kingdom. Full sales data for May are not expected until mid-June. Early reviews on the game, though, have been lukewarm. "If you are a fan of ’The Matrix’ and like action games, then the game is for you. However, the game isn’t an outstanding representation of its genre, but rather just a good one," wrote in a review of the PC version, which it gave a 78 percent rating., which amalgamates reviews from across the Web and averages their scores, showed scores of between 70 percent and 80 percent for the game. Top games regularly exceed 90 percent in their calculations. A spokeswoman for Atari was not available to comment on the early reviews of the game. According to Frank Sadowski, vice president of consumer electronics merchandising at, "Enter the Matrix" is the top seller on the PlayStation 2 and Xbox, outselling its closest competitor two-to-one and four-to-one, respectively. On the GameCube, "Matrix" is barely number two to "The Legend of Zelda," while on the PC it is second but being outsold three-to-one by "Sims Superstar." The game is also the top seller on all platforms in the United Kingdom, Europe’s top games market, according to weekly ChartTrack sales data. "Enter the Matrix" was released the same day as the hotly- anticipated film "The Matrix Reloaded," which had the second- largest opening weekend ever for a movie and the best ever for an "R"-rated film. Atari shares closed down 5.49 percent or 27 cents to $4.65 on Tuesday.


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