Atari Stages Comeback Ahead of ‘Blade Runner 2049’

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Three years after emerging from bankruptcy, Atari is busy reviving its brand ahead of its biggest comeback imaginable — a brand cameo in the upcoming Blade Runner 2049 movie sequel.

The brand synonymous with pioneering early video gaming has confirmed that it inked a product placement deal to appear in the upcoming Blade Runner sequel. This despite the fact that Atari has not done much in a decade and is regarded more as nostalgia than a vital video gaming brand.

But Atari has a comeback strategy that includes “LGBT, social casinos, real-money gambling, and YouTube.” And, of course, Blade Runner 2049.

Atari’s placement in Blade Runner 2049 is not unexpected. The brand appeared very prominently in the original 1982 film (even though both the 1985 and 1997 video game versions of the film were not released by Atari.)

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The brand says that its partnership with the film is part of an attempt to leverage Atari as a “lifestyle brand.” But Atari doesn’t need to attach itself to Hollywood to create a little drama; the brand that was a household gaming name in the 1980s has been chopped up, repackaged and emerged from bankruptcy in the decades since.

Now, three years after emerging from bankruptcy, Atari is trying to build its brand equity into something at least approaching its old glory. As Atari CEO Atari CEO Fred Chesnais told Gamespot, its comeback will involve new games for mobile platforms but also a “robust licensing business” targeting fashion and other products.

The newest of those licenses appears to be the Blade Runner tie-in Speakerhat—literally a hat with embedded speakers in the brim—in a collaboration with NECA’s Audiowear.

“Atari has transcended its seminal gaming origins to become a true pop-culture lifestyle brand, but disruption remains deeply rooted in our DNA,” stated Atari Connect COO Michael Arzt.

“With the recent reveal of our Ataribox project and now with Speakerhats, we envision a full range of connected personal devices that live at society’s intersection of entertainment, technology and social connectivity that legendary film worlds like Blade Runner 2049 foretell. Our new products will speak to a whole new generation of Atari fans, while also honoring the decades of affection and devotion by our most loyal ones.”

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That’s why attendees at the just-wrapped San Diego Comic-Con were invited to check out the Blade Runner 2049 Experience, an interactive exhibition with virtual reality and film props that was sponsored by Johnnie Walker.

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Blade Runner 2049 made a distinctive and memorable mark with its recent reveal trailer that skillfully captured and evolved the aesthetic presented in the classic original film. Atari was an enduring and essential element in the sequel filmmakers’ world-building,” said NECA COO Joel Weinshanker. “The minute the new trailer hit, we started getting requests for Atari-branded Blade Runner 2049 products and knew we’d need to partner with Atari to satisfy the countless joint fans of both franchises.”

The press release adds that the “Limited-Edition Atari Blade Runner 2049 Speakerhat will ultimately be joined by a variety of Atari-branded lifestyle products such as high-tech wearables and apparel based on its popular IP, as well as various audio and gaming gadgets.”

The new Ataribox on the other hand might bring the brand more of its old prominence. Its first gaming console in almost a quarter century, the Ataribox is promoted by Atari as a product that will appeal “to both old and new fans of Atari.

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The handsome wood-paneled console remains a bit of a mystery (a black box, if you will) but it could be the start of Atari’s comeback. And with appearances in other pop culture moments such as the upcoming Ready Player One film, who knows? By the real 2049 we all may be wearing Atari smart watches and playing Atari’s VR system.

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