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Dear Fruitman... - The Atari Times

Dear Fruitman...

Atari. Explained.
by Fruitman

November 6, 2001
I remember that Atari is from a word used in the game of "Go." and it is said before placing your game piece on the board.

I have been told it is a polite form of "Attack."

What does Atari mean?


Dear Johnny,

You are correct. Atari is from the game of Go and the word is similar to "check" in chess. Care to take a guess at what Sente (Bushnell's other video game company) means in Go?

This question made me think of a rather interesting quandary that the president of Nintendo has gotten himself into. Some time back, I read Game Over: Press Start To Continue, The Maturing of Mario by David Sheff (ISBN# 0-9669617-0-6), which is mostly about how Nintendo took over the game industry with some rather "shady" tactics. (Get a copy if you can, they're only $3 at EB.) Throughout the book, Sheff mentions how Go is the favorite game of Nintendo President (and all around nasty villain) Hiroshi Yamauchi. Yamauchi is the cutthroat who pioneered such tactics at price-fixing, competition-squeezing, and press-manipulation. Tactics that are still in use today by the new video game giants of Microsoft and Sony. Of course, the "good" companies who did not share in these tactics, SNK, Sega, and Atari, are no longer manufacturing hardware.

Ever wonder why Sony and Namco became so tight? Yamauchi had a hand in that too. Years ago, when Namco owned a part of Atari Games, they formed Tengen to side-step Nintendo's restrictive licensing agreements. When they failed, Yamauchi made Hideyuki Nakajima, the president of Namco, beg for forgiveness. So, when Sony came along, Namco saw an opportunity to screw over Yamauchi for his prior mis-deeds.

Yes, Yamauchi's favorite game is Go, which means he must say "Atari" every time he plays it. Knowing his hatred for Atari, due to the Tengen and Namco debacles, he has managed to fashion his own form of torture which he will continue to inflict on himself until his dying day. That must be what Karma is all about.

Yamauchi wasn't all bad, however. He did teach others how to manipulate gamers all over the world. Yamauchi doesn't even play video games. In fact, he thinks they're childish and stupid. He is the epitome of a person only in it for the money. 

In the mid-80's, Nintendo locked out Sega and Atari from selling their games and systems at chains such as Wal-Mart, K-Mart, and other retail outlets. How? Nintendo knew their NES was selling like crazy and if any retail store went against their wishes, they would pull their stock of games from every store. No chain wanted to risk making Nintendo angry, so they agreed not to sell Sega or Atari games.

Who will win this round of the video game wars? Only time will tell. With Sega's exit of the Dreamcast, there are only three players left: Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo. (Contrary to popular belief, Sony did not destroy Sega and the Dreamcast. Sega destroyed themselves, much like Atari did. The DC was a fantastic machine that was at least a year ahead of it's time and rivaled anything the PS2 could do.)

Microsoft has a multi-billion dollar bankroll as does Sony. Nintendo probably has the smallest budget, but all of it will focused on games. Not to mention the tenacity of Yamauchi. He would never admit defeat even in the wake of the destruction of his company. 

The real question is not who will win, but who SHOULD win? When you have three evil companies such as this, who do you throw your hat in with? It's a difficult choice, and ultimately one I will not make. I would rather sit on the sidelines and keep my ethics intact than assist these morally corrupt companies make even more millions. No, I will sit on the sidelines and watch as these three tear each other to shreds.

So enjoy your Xbox, PS2, or Gamecube. Each time you fire up one of those evil beasts, remember that your purchase has contributed to the death of more honorable companies like SNK, Sega, and Atari.

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