Atari toyed with early game network

Atari co-founder Nolan Bushnell talks about one of the company's experiments

In a retrospective on Atari celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, co-founder Nolan Bushnell spoke with Time about the company's history, touching briefly on an experimental period. In 1976, after Bushnell sold the company to Warner Communications - which later merged with Time, Inc. to form Time Warner - Atari briefly toyed with the idea of an early game network.

"Warner made a whole series of blunders which were not good for Atari," Bushnell began. "We were going to do this game network over telephone lines, but Warner couldn't figure out why people would want to play games with people they couldn't see."

"If we had gone ahead and done it, it could have essentially been the Internet, in private hands. It's kind of fun to think about owning the Internet."

Bushnell left Atari in November of 1978, after fighting with Warner executives. He only recently returned to the company in 2010, joining its board and serving as an advisor.

"The brand is still powerful, and it's not just a retro thing. It has a whole bunch of really important intellectual property, and a lot of people still think of Atari as a company of innovation," he said.

Atari is currently in the midst of releasing iOS remakes of its classic titles, including Asteroids, Centipede, Breakout. The full profile is available over at Time.

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Latest comments (2)

James Wells Gaming Contributor - 5 years ago
That could've been pretty radical! It could've been like the Sega Channel or XBand modem services they had during the 16-bit era.
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For me the most scary thing is a number of those 'executives' that took over from Warner after Nolan was "encouraged" out have gone on to still play a part in the formation of the modern console market - claiming experience. Those great minds that could not grasp console cartridges or the idea of network play - or just the basic fundamentals of the pay-to-play scene.

Sadly we can't use any of their names for the obvious reason.

The majority of these 'wing nuts' though were linked in part to the total collapse of Midway - in particular two very special executives that are rumored to be supporters of the THQ restructuring - 'second time lucky'!
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