The COO at Atari Games Jean-Marcel Nicolai shared some thoughts on the company's recent and upcoming titles, discussed the challenges of mobile game development, and told us about the company's future plans.
Games and Gamers
80.lv: How fast is the premium PC and console game segment growing? What are the gamers most excited about now, what kinds of games are the most highly anticipated/popular?
Jean-Marcel Nicolai, COO at Atari: Atari is investing a lot of energy into the premium market, with a combination of brand new titles and reinterpretations of some of our classic IP under development. We will be focusing on games that can be played on both PC and console, and of course, we will be developing titles for the all-new Atari VCS videogame computer system.
The amazing thing about the market today is the breadth of game genres available to players – and the appetite for new games among a large audience of players which makes game development possible. You can be successful with everything from indie puzzlers to 2D platformers, visual novels, and massive open-world epics. What players today want most of all is a quality experience … real craftsmanship in concept, design, visuals, and score. Plus, they really value surprise, which opens a lot of doors for developers and challenges them to be creative.
80.lv: What are Atari's most significant creations? Which ones have been a success and have grown a big player community over the years?
Jean-Marcel Nicolai: The RollerCoaster Tycoon franchise remains strong and will be actively supported going forward. These park-building games have a very large and loyal community and continue to gain new players. We are continuing to improve and evolve these titles. RollerCoaster Tycoon Touch remains our flagship in the free-to-play category. We have made major investments in the title this year, including a shift from a calendar of five major seasonal events a year, to an ‘always-on’ approach where we have seasons rolling out continuously. The increase in new in-game assets, such as rides and restaurants, and always having season-based objectives have increased engagement and retention.
Days of Doom is a relatively new post-apocalyptic RPG game that is fast-paced, rich with unconventional characters, and thick with combat. We are really excited about the game assets, especially the characters. We’ve had a good early response, and we are building the community around the game and delving deeper into the characters and lore.
Citytopia continues to be a popular title, and we are looking at ways to expand the franchise.
Challenges and Risks
80.lv: What are the main challenges and risks when creating mobile games? How do they compare to the difficulties behind the development of console and PC games?
Jean-Marcel Nicolai: The challenge in the mobile game marketplace today is user acquisition. After a general bump in the market in the first half of 2020, the industry has seen the efficacy of social media ads deteriorate, and CAC (customer acquisition cost) has been climbing, especially on iOS. In order to grow without burning money, companies need to build an engaged, loyal user base and find ways to use referrals and creative marketing to drive organic growth.
80.lv: Is there any chance that Atari's classic arcade games are going to be reworked and reissued as PC and console games on a whole new level? Or are you planning to work on completely new titles? Are we going to see new game universes with completely new characters or are the upcoming premium games going to be based on IPs we already know and love?
Jean-Marcel Nicolai: A short answer is yes, yes, and yes. We have some exciting announcements planned in the coming weeks and months that relate to our classic IP, and we will continue to invest in a combination of reissued classic games, reimagined versions of the originals, and completely new titles that are based on the original IP, but not on the original gameplay. We will also be bringing new games based on entirely new IP to the market. And you will see Atari play a more active role in the games market as a publisher.
We recently announced the first title in our new Recharged series. Centipede: Recharged has been reimagined for modern gameplay, with vibrant visuals designed for modern screens, a 16:9 field of play, and an original soundtrack. Centipede: Recharged is coming to Epic Games, Steam, Switch, Xbox, PlayStation, and the Atari VCS on September 29.
80.lv: What genres of premium PC and console games are you going to focus on? Are you planning to grow your team and hire new programmers, artists, designers, testers, and other specialists in the field of game development?
Jean-Marcel Nicolai: Atari is about fun. So, while we aren’t focusing on any one genre, we are committed to developing games that deliver a fun experience, typically including both single-player and co-op gameplay on PC and console.
Our model, for now, is to match our in-house producers with the many, many talented game development studios across the world. There is so much talent working in video game development today, that it allows us the luxury of doing intensely rewarding collaborations with a wide variety of independent designers, composers, programmers, as well as some really good game studios.
The Recharged project is an example of this approach. For this series, we built a team composed of an in-house producer, game designer Adam Nickerson, and the game development shop SneakyBox Studios. The team worked with award-winning video game composer Megan McDuffee who created a really strong electronic original soundtrack.
80.lv: Could you shed some light on the current working process, is there a game in development that might be released in the near future? When are the new premium Atari games expected to enter the market?
Jean-Marcel Nicolai: Three more Recharged titles will launch before the end of the year. We have also announced that we are working with Mega Cat Studios on a new game based on the Atari arcade classic Food Fight, and we have quite a few announcements planned in the coming months. We don’t want to share any news prematurely, but this is going to be a very busy 12 months for Atari.