Why Is Atari Ignoring Europe and Japan?

Why Is Atari Ignoring Europe and Japan?

Last Updated on December 14, 2023

Atari has just announced a four-game limited edition Atari 2600 cartridge collection sporting art by pop culture artist Butcher Billy.

If you haven’t heard of him, you’ve probably seen his work, which has graced the covers of popular television shows like Netflix’s Stranger Things and Black Mirror. The games (Dark Chambers, Outlaw, Save Mary, and FatalRun) are being reissued under the Atari XP initiative.

And they’re going to set you back $299.99. But only if you’re in the USA.

If you’re anywhere else, tough.

What is Atari XP?

Launching in 2001, the Atari XP series is a collection of reissues that meet the following criteria:

  • Games that were completed but never received an official release, or were only released in very limited quantities. 
  • Games for which physical media has become extremely rare, and therefore hard to find. 
  • A wide variety of classic games that would benefit from small improvements to graphic rendering on modern devices and the smoothness and accuracy of controls. These games will be carefully ‘reconditioned’ and then re-released. 

This new collection unites classic games Dark Chambers, Outlaw, Save Mary, and FatalRun with the thematic similarities of Butcher Billy’s vibrant signature work. The games join a lineup of 18 titles, each manufactured to high standards with compatibility with the original Atari 2600. They’ve even been given beveled edges to protect the pins, gold-plated connectors, and even power draw.

Sounds nice, right?

Not in the USA? Atari says “Forget it.”

Most of our readers are based in the UK. You’re going to see something like this Butcher Billy artwork, click the link to atari.com’s collection listing page, and be politely informed that:

It is 2023.

What on earth could be preventing Atari from releasing these titles more widely?

Over the past few months, we’ve seen other XP releases, limited edition Atari attire, and a general commoditizing of the brand. From the disaster of the Atari VCS has sprung a veritable mining of the back catalogue. The Atari 50 collection (recently updated) is superb, and deservedly so. Ideas such as Jeff Minter reworking Akka Arrh have been well received, but then there are things like this.

What we’re looking at is intentional short supply in order to increase value of the entire brand.

They’re getting Atari wrong again

Now, you might feel that it doesn’t matter. Atari deserves its resurgence, after so long scrambling around as someone else’s IP; a brand name to add gravitas to some mediocre titles.

After all, it had its fair share of flops.

But that misses the point. This high-end retro niche market that Atari has firmly planted its flag in does no one any favours. There is an inevitable knock on effect for newcomers to the retro world: higher prices. Trickle-down economics – while not a great basis for a national policies – is real.

Atari has manufactured value in its brand, and this will increase the value across the retro sphere.

If you own classic gear (as I do) then this is a good thing. But it’s not good for anyone new to retro gaming, or coming back to the classics decades later, without a cartridge to their name.

UK, Europe, Japan: forget it

This limited-edition collection has been crafted to a mere 500 units. For 4 carts worth around $60 each with rare artwork, it certainly seems $299.99 is about right (whatever my misgivings about the quality of the games). Pre-orders for this collection opened on December 12th, and have probably run out by the time you read this.

If you’re in the UK, European mainland, Japan, Australia, or indeed, anywhere else in the world, forget it. Short of buying from scalpers or other overpriced means, unless you have a secret US-based address or a generous relative, you’re not going to see these cartridges.

The only winner here is Atari.

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