Over the last couple of days, one publisher has been permanently dominating my Twitter feed and not in a good way. Jeff Minter’s announcement that Atari had brought down the hammer on TxK was made with frustration and anger, and coming from one of the industry’s most loved and longest running game developers, it spread like wildfire. Accusing him of stealing ideas and resources from Tempest 2000, Atari was demanding that Minter not only brought an end to TxK, but also that he not make any Tempest-like games in the future.
Jeff Minter, (known for, well, for creating Tempest in the first place) was rather unsurprisingly a little upset. Atari, (known for, well, for previously being Infogrames before buying the Atari name and pretending they’d worked for it,) had accused him of stealing the Tempest IP, one which Atari’s lawyers had spent many hours and piles of paperwork securing.
Here’s a rather controversial viewpoint, coming from someone with absolutely no legal background whatsoever. – Atari are probably technically right. Claiming that TxK bears no relation to Tempest 2000 is absolute nonsense, even a cursory glance at TxK will highlight its Tempest roots. When Tempest 2000 was made, Minter was certainly working for Atari and the IP does belong to them, but does a position of being ‘technically right’ have any bearing whatsoever in this age of social media?
Run a search on Atari on Twitter right now and it is not a pleasant place to be, especially not for whichever poor sap is currently responsible for Atari’s social media account.
@atari You don’t value anything other than trying to scrape a few quid together, you shambling husk wearing the skin of Atari.
— Rob (@retroremakes) March 20, 2015
Atari are having more success in preventing people playing cool games than helping people to play cool games. They’re an anti-publisher. — Lewie Procter (@LewieP) March 19, 2015
In the end, it doesn’t matter who’s right. Atari has suffered a massive blow to its public reputation due to its actions against TxK, and the announcement yesterday of its new Fitness app was met with derision and abuse from a public sick of hearing their name. No-one is winning here. Jeff Minter certainly isn’t winning, due to Atari preventing him from pursuing his intentions of a multi-platform release of TxK. Jeff’s fans aren’t winning, because they’re being prevented from playing what they eagerly want to play.
But Atari? They’re certainly not winning – The public now hate them, with people calling for boycotts of their products. Tonight, in a classic example of bad timing, some brave Atari employee will be Twitch streaming Asteroids to drum up interest in a mediocre looking open-world survival reboot of a classic franchise. I’m fully expecting the Twitch chat to be an interesting place to be.
Good luck to him, is all I can say.