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Wanted: Mascot - The Atari Times

Wanted: Mascot

Atari never found it's Mario or Sonic
by Gregory D. George

April 24, 2003
Atari reigned in the age of games when the story and the main character of a game took a backseat to the actual gameplay. Nowadays, you'd be hard pressed to find a game that DIDN'T include a main character.

Major Havoc

Charley Chuck
Adventure Hero
Mama Kangaroo
Bentley Bear

So what characters would have been successful as a mascot for the grandfather of video gaming? Here are a few possibilities.

Atari had hoped to create a mascot game from the classic Major Havoc arcade game. Would Major Havoc been the most appropriate choice for a mascot? Doubtful. There are very few "gun-toting" guys that are mascots. Similarly, the Atari Force might have made an interesting mascot team if not for their "shoot first, ask questions later" perception.

Another interesting character that might have worked was Charley Chuck from the game Food Fight. He has mischievousness about him, much like Sonic. But what game would he have been in? Food Fight 2000 probably wouldn't appeal to a large audience in this day and age.

How about the Paperboy? Here's a nice wholesome character who delivers papers to the doors of his customers. He's a hard working lad that might have boosted Atari sales. Too bad his mode of information delivery is so 1980's. (No internet for the public back then you see.)

Atari had few platform games in its library, but they did have Arabian. Perhaps a re-worked Arabian game in the vein of a Crash Bandicoot would have been fun?

Although he never received a name and is a bit of a square, the Adventure hero has many of the qualities to become a big time mascot. He's brave, curious, dashing, and determined. Much like Link from the Zelda games, the Adventure hero only needed a name and a new adventure to begin the long road towards corporate mascot.

For the most part humans make lousy mascots. What is really needed is an animal or something totally unique in design.

Cyberball was a fascinating game of futuristic football and was quite popular for the time. Perhaps a game where one of the robots must make his way to the Cyberball Tournament could have cultivated him as the Atari mascot?

Perhaps what was needed for the mascot was a different approach. Could the Adventure dragons have become jaunty enough to encourage the much-needed sales? While it is tempting to think of them as snarling beasts, perhaps they would have worked better as Pete's Dragon type characters? Maybe they're not always happy, but they're not thought of as evil beasts needed to be slain (a connotation Atari would wish to avoid.)

In the new Pong game, the Pong paddles had their own cute personality. As mascot's go, it was a bit of a stretch to think of them as living creatures. And they may have been "too cute" to be thought of as a serious contender for Atari mascot.

Another evil character comes to mind when looking for a mascot The Centipede! However, tenacious multi-segmented monsters probably wouldn't have gone over well. (Sort of like the remake.) Generally speaking, cute animals with special abilities make the best mascots. Atari has two such characters, which could have represented the company in a stellar fashion.

Firstly, is the Kangaroo. She doesn't have a name, but she's quick with those boxing gloves and could hop around quicker than Sonic on speed. A new Kangaroo game might have propelled this marsupial out of mascot obscurity.

Secondly is one of the most bandied around name for Atari mascot: Bentley Bear. He's cute, wears a magic hat, collects gems, and had a happy attitude. Another great choice for Atari mascot.

Finally, while not cute in the least, this character could have become the world's first insect mascot: Yar! Voted as the "best possible mascot," and it's hard to disagree. He's quick, agile, eats endlessly, and has a super weapon second to none. The Yar's tough attitude coupled with a strong sense of determination might have become the greatest Atari mascot.

While Nintendo has Mario and Sega has Sonic, Atari will never have that mascot character to give them an identity. And it's just as well too. Atari will always be remembered for their games instead of the cute character they created. And isn't that what it's really about? Wouldn't you rather be remembered for the GAMES than for a character?

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