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Atari To Divest  Champions Online  Developer Cryptic Studios
Atari To Divest Champions Online Developer Cryptic Studios
May 17, 2011 | By Kyle Orland

May 17, 2011 | By Kyle Orland
More: Console/PC, Social/Online, Business/Marketing

As part of an earnings report today, Atari announced it is divesting of its interest in Champions Online developer Cryptic Studios, calling the development house a "discontinued operation" as of March 31.

Atari will continue to support all current Cryptic products while the publisher looks to sell the studio, Gamasutra understands. Development on the Bay Area studio's Neverwinter project will continue as normal for the time being.

"In line with the previously stated strategy of fewer but more profitable releases and further expansion into casual online and mobile games, the Company has determined that external development creates more flexibility in the changing marketplace," Atari wrote in justifying the move.

The studio, which recently took Champions Online free-to-play, showed a 5.3 million ($7.5 million) loss for the 2010/11 fiscal year, up from a loss of 12.6 million ($17.9 million) the previous year.

Founded in 2000, Cryptic is well known for its City of Heroes/Villains and Star Trek Online MMOs. The studio has been part of Atari since a 2008 acquisition.

[UPDATE: A comment on the official Star Trek Online forums from Cryptic employee 'WishStone' adds:

"Right now I have no further details other than what has been mentioned elsewhere. Support for Champions Online and Star Trek Online will be continuing as normal, our staff is working hard on their projects... and there are no planned changes to the way any of our games and projects will operate."]

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Bart Stewart
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The Cryptic acquisition was supposed to be part of Atari's new emphasis on multiplayer products. Now it's only "casual" multiplayer that is Atari's strategic focus?

The multiplayer direction seemed plausible, but I don't know what this turnaround with Cryptic says. In fact, it appears to argue against Atari having anything like a coherent long-term vision for success, which is particularly Bad News for a publicly-held company. You can't win a race when you change horses that often.

Sean Danielson
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No kidding, mate.

Add in the fact that we've got a "symbolic" one-day strike from one of Atari's studios in France, and you can see the pieces of the puzzle starting to look more and more incoherent. They seem to have difficulty achieving a specific sense of direction and sticking with it past a single development cycle. The fact that Star Trek Online was not as successful as Atari had hoped is probably one reason for their recent moves.

It's almost as though Atari is suffering from some kind of bipolar schizophrenia.

Though, Atari really needs to learn to stay on the ride and understand that attempting to make lofty expectations for MMORPGs (such as calling it a WoW killer) is disingenuous to the genre, and dangerous to themselves as well.

mikael svensson
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Well...its like this everywhere right. Everything is short term only. Casual is the way to go for large companies like Atari and EA.

Making a really good game doesn't cost all that lot of money. Let us put our hope on small companies to make good games in the future. You just need a few dedicated people with a vision.

It is sad the same time...that medium size companies are not allowed to work on more in-depth, or "hardcore", games if you like.