Something Smells Suss At Atari

It seems like the opportunity of a lifetime — a game development competition where indies get the chance to make a new Pong game for Atari. But a closer look at Atari’s Pong Indie Developer Challenge reveals it might not be the opportunity that everyone wants.

Over at Gamasutra today, Brian Robbins writes that the Official Contest Rules for the game challenge reveal that developers are getting the short end of the straw by participating.

These are some of the rules Robbins highlights as being problematic:

• Ownership of submission — Atari has full ownership over every entry submitted, regardless or not the entry is a finalist or wins the overall competition. The specific line in the rules states:

All Entries become the sole and exclusive property of Sponsor {Atari) and will not be acknowledged or returned. Sponsor shall own all right, title and interest in and to each Entry, including without limitation all results and proceeds thereof and all elements or constituent parts of Entry (including without limitation the Mobile App, the Design Documents, the Video Trailer, the Playable and all illustrations, logos, mechanicals, renderings, characters, graphics, designs, layouts or other material therein) and all copyrights and renewals and extensions of copyrights therein and thereto.

This means that if you enter it, it’s theirs — the design documents, the art, all the materials you used to produce it — Atari can do what they wish and profit from it, leaving entrants with nothing. Compared to other competitions like the IGF that allow developers to maintain the rights to the games they make, Atari do not appear to be keen on that idea at all.

• Misleading prizes — Winners can win “up to $100,000” in the game challenge, but only half of this prize money is awarded upfront and the other half is earned from royalties from the game, which means winners can win up to $100,000… if the game sells well enough.

• Royalties structure — Even if a developer does win the challenge, they only receive royalties for the first 12 months the final game is on sale. If there is a sudden spike in sales after the 12-month period, developers do not receive a cut of that.

While the competition is open to US residents only, the takeaway from this is that all developers — indie or otherwise — need to be aware of the wording of the terms and conditions of game-making competitions, even if they are run by companies as well-known as Atari.



    Wow, f that s. You might as well make your own Pong-style game and sell it independently.

    I always thought it'd be great to have this revamped Pong game with an overarching campaign or "career" mode set in a universe where competitive Pong has become 'a thing'. Between matches you have to find sponsors, design your suede Elite Pong Championship jumpsuit, and manage press junkets.

    Sounds like Atari to me! The devs who enter should learn from the past - hide your name and details within an Easter Egg in the game, ala Adventure! ;)


    Atari didn't get to where they are by exactly being fair...

    Anyone considering entering should just release it as a mobile app game. You'd at least earn income even if you aren't a winner.

    What's the problem here, exactly? This information is clearly stated in the contest terms and conditions. It's not as if they are hiding the information from anyone.

    Don't like the T&C's? Then don't enter. Simple as that.

      Do you read, understand and negotiate every contract or legal document you sign? Or do you get a solicitor or lawyer to read some of them for you?

      Not everyone will fully comprehend the terms of the competition and understand the ramifications of entering. This seems (to me) to be just an advisory article making people aware that if they enter, they have everything to lose and a small chance of gaining something.

        I always read anything that requires my signature first. If I don't understand something, I find out what it means by research or by asking someone else. So, to answer your question, yes, I always make sure I understand contracts or legal documents before signing them.

    "Ownership of submission" - this first objection isn't that peculiar. Many contests of skill (poems, pictures, songs etc) are subject to this kind of thing. You enter the competition, and you turn over the rights to your efforts to the promoter to do with as they wish in their promotion. Though in many cases I expect it's only for the winners of said competition, rather than every entry.

    The other two are little bit sneaky, but still, if you're a fledgling indie developer, $50k upfront with a promise to another $50k if you're project sells well isn't a bad 'kickstart' I guess.

    Still, those T&C leave a slightly dirty taste in your mouth, don't they?

    It's not a competition; it's "make our games for us!". How pathetic.

    No surprise! This is Atari after all (or Infogrames as they were known) - I wish they would hurry up and collapse

    Yeah Atari have gone after indie devs of late who were producing stuff related to Atari's IP, mainly because Atari are doing nothing with it...and now this!!! Me thinks Atari have pretty much lost all perspective and need a bullet real fast. They've given up on producing anything and just stealing from other people or sueing their A's off...what a joke of a company.

    It's like any sort of competition of this sort - no matter what field it is in, you're not going to come out on top. In the end it's just a promotional tool for the company to get people talking about them.

    This is nothing new. All them lame arse talent shows on TV do the same thing in their T&C's. You perform a unique act or sing a new song they claim it as their own and can reproduce it or make changes etc for profit and could probably Sue if you continued on using that song or act for profit.

    Name one game where sales spiked upwards after 12 months

      I take it you've never heard of Steam sales.

      Most of Halfbrick's iOS games are still doing very well more than a year after launch. Heck, Fruit Ninja is still in the top 10 selling apps!

        Off topic but I always thought 'Fruit Ninja' would be so much more interesting if 'fruit' had a more colloquial application. An insult to the gay community sure but still very entertaining.
        Back on topic, it's easy to rail at corporate entities for their convoluted legal jargon in T&C (Apple, anyone?) but to be fair the terms Atari have put down are pretty clear and a potential 50 grand for a reimagining of pong really isn't so bad. They're not exactly asking for a product that equates to Mass Effect.

    You all you need to do is create a game that destroys/transforms itself after a single use so that it no longer exists in its original form... that'll work, right?

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