Without Atari's original incarnation, it's possible we wouldn't have a games industry at all.
Products such as the Pong arcade machine and the Atari 2600 VCS -- one of the first, most popular mainstream games consoles -- helped the company carve out a niche for itself in the '70s and '80s.
Since that time, the company has had something of a turbulent ride, however. Splitting into two distinct components -- one for arcade games, one for consumer electronics -- following the great industry crash of the mid-'80s, the company was later sold off to Hasbro Interactive in 1998, which in turn was bought by Infogrames in 2001. There then followed a period of relative stability, with Infogrames going so far as to rebrand itself Atari rather than the other way around, though the company continued to operate with heavy losses throughout the early '00s.
In 2013, the various incarnations of Atari filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, emerging somewhat scathed from the ordeal a year later with a skeleton staff of just 10 people under the leadership of CEO Frederic Chesnais. Now, it seems, the company is keen to get back on its feet -- but it's a shadow of its former self.
The company has already announced a new mobile incarnation of the RollerCoaster Tycoon series. This was met with such derision from the gaming public that Atari was forced to announce that it was also working on a "PC experience" in the franchise, though we're yet to hear details on that. Now, it seems, the company's big plan is to get involved in the potentially lucrative but sometimes sleazy world of online gambling. Partnering with social casino company FlowPlay, Atari is set to launch a casino MMO called simply Atari Casino, which will be available on Facebook, mobile devices and in Web browsers, wallpapering its real-money gaming with classic Atari games to pay lipservice to the brand's original incarnation.
"We see partnering with FlowPlay and entering the social casino market as a natural progression for us," said Atari CEO Fred Chesnais. "As we move beyond gaming, taking advantage of such a rapidly growing industry that aligns well with our core business is important."
As social network gaming has declined in popularity somewhat -- largely replaced by mobile gaming -- many former social game providers have been moving into the real-money gambling market, and it's proven to be quite lucrative despite the obvious ethical implications. Whether Atari Casino is the limit of the company's ambitions or whether it's just a stepping-stone back into becoming a player in the interactive entertainment department as a whole remains to be seen, but one thing's hard to deny: the gaming giant of the '70s and '80s hasn't been with us for a very long time now.