NEWS - Wednesday, May 7, 2003
Infogrames changes name to AtariTo mark the new Atari Inc. and the new ticker symbol ATAR, Chief Executive Bruno Bonnell is set to open the Nasdaq on Wednesday. The Atari name is the most storied in video gaming, dating back to the early 1970s, when Nolan Bushnell and a team of engineers at Atari created "Pong," the arcade video game that was so popular machines sometimes jammed up because they were overflowing with quarters. "What we have decided to do, following a very precise strategy, effectively is to adopt this brand Atari," Bonnell told Reuters. "Clearly we feel like it is the symbol of the global company that we became during the last two years." Over the years, Atari went through many incarnations, and at one point operated as a subsidiary of what was then called Warner Communications and is now known as AOL Time Warner. It ceased to be a stand-alone company in 1996, when it was acquired by JTS Corp., and in early 1998 JTS sold the Atari rights and assets to toymaker Hasbro Inc. Infogrames, founded in France in 1983, acquired the rights to the Atari brand in early 2001 when it bought Hasbro Interactive. In October 2001 the company relaunched the brand and began using it as a games publishing label. Though its origins are French, Bonnell said 65 percent of the companys business is done in the United States. Last year the company cut 60 percent of its French workforce, and Bonnell said he is dividing time evenly between the two sides. But in the interim, Bonnell said, the parent company trading on the French bourse will continue to be known as Infogrames Entertainment SA, as the process for changing the companys name will take longer there. Infogrames/Atari shares have been on a run of late, rising more than 130 percent on the Nasdaq since April 18, when the company said it had completed work on "Enter the Matrix," the hotly-anticipated video game companion to the forthcoming Warner Bros. film "The Matrix Reloaded." Both the game and the movie will be released May 15, and Bonnell has in past said he expects the game could be an international mega-hit, selling millions of units. On Tuesday Infogrames said it plans to ship 4 million units of the game, across the various gaming platforms, to retailers worldwide. The success of the game is widely seen as the key to the company meeting its sales forecasts.