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Atari: We're under pressure, but not from the economy

David Gardner on the business progress made, and the main challenge facing the industry

Atari CEO David Gardner has told that the publisher is feeling pressure - but that it's not coming from stockholders as the result of the global economic situation.

Instead, he says it's something that the top management, including the company's president, Phil Harrison, has felt from day one.

"I would say that Infogrames in general has been on a mission in general to really rebuild itself, make itself a much more efficient company anyway," he said. "We started this process when I arrived and it's been an emerging process.

"We've been working quickly, we've announced some specific cost savings - we've saved EUR 16 million this year. Some of that has been by reducing our employment by 100 people, some of it has been by a more efficient method of commissioning games - Phil terminated a lot of projects that we didn't feel were profitable, and we're setting much higher standards for the profitability of our games as well, which I think is something that should have been done a long time ago.

"We're feeling the pressure, but that's not from an economic situation that's happened and has been talked about for the last couple of months. We felt that pressure when we arrived, because Atari over its history had been delaying urgent things that needed improving in the company, so we've already started that."

But while the company might not be under the same pressure from investors that the likes of Activision Blizzard or Electronic Arts are, Gardner still sees where the potential economic impact could hit the industry.

"I think the worry - and my worry frankly - is will the broader catalogue of products sell well when consumers are careful about spending their money?" he said. "Because I think now we're seeing maybe the top two games, and maybe the number three game sell well so far, but we're already hearing stories about games below that not selling as well as last year.

"That will be a challenge for the industry - the traditional parts of the industry. I think when you're still a small company like us, we still have a lot of upside growth because we're not trying to grow a USD 3 billion business by 20 per cent.

"I think that it just means that we have to be careful about our investments when they happen, and that's really around the products - we've already had to start anyway, so we're well ahead of the economic situation on that front."

The second part of the interview with David Gardner and Phil Harrison - from which these quotes are taken - is available now.

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