Rainy Day Band Names (the Atari Landfill post)

We're hunkered down for a hurricane here folks. Enjoy your rainy day band names, courtesy Hurricane Fay.
Turns out the Atari landfill really does exist, and isn't just another urban legend. In news that has been announced in the last few weeks, "they" have identified the location, the contemporaneous reporter, and interviewed the mayor of the town where landfill exists.

It's the news those fatcats in the mainstream media don't want you to know! [ maybe my friend Kyle's blog should do a podcast about it...]

But lets dispel another rumor: The Internet is awash with pseudo-hip "wiseguy" reviews that the reason Atari dumped these games is because they were awful and this led to the first video game industry crash.

The truth is, for 1982, the game is eminently playable, with a title screen, full color characters and a musical score. The designer was quite talented, and did a responsible job with the insane 5-week deadline the company allotted.

You need the instruction manual to successfully complete the game, but try learning Halo 3 without the manual. Here is one--of a number--of reviews by industry insiders that refute the "received wisdom" that the game was sub-par.

The a more likely story is that Atari, under the last gasp of a corrupt management regime, was attempting to cook the books. The company was raking in money like never before, but it was hemorrhaging money through near-insane command decisions. It's like a tiny and primordial early dry run of the 90's Internet bubble.

At the time, the company had a Windows-style market share but maintained an Apple-like monopoly of its technology and a rabid Apple-esque fan base. Yet they were able to squander all of this with false starts, un-leveraged research projects and reactions to market conditions that any 16 year old gamer would have recognized as unsound.

Is there a lesson here for modern business? Maybe nothing specific, but the comparison with Apple is surprisingly germane. Apple has churned through multiple cycles of innovation, decadent protectionism and decay. Its a model that has worked for Apple but failed Atari.

If Apple fails in the future, it may be attributed to a disastrous product (like Apple TV). But in the case of the Atari landfill, one thing is clear : Don't blame the games, blame the major industry players.

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