Thursday, May 29, 2008

Old emails from my atari archive.. (sorry for formatting)

Sorry if the Subject: seems a little confusing. I'm not quite sure how to
summarize this. Anyway, stuff of interest to Atari-watchers, I'm sure.
Everything's from memory, so I may have a few details off, but the gist is

I was invited to sit in this afternoon at a briefing session about Atari's
attempts to improve retailer relationships, distribution, and market analysis.
The session was headed by Derek Wong of Wong & Associates, who are Atari's
retailer contact point for the California/Hawaii area. Wong & Associates
also do work for Sega, Capcom, and other video game companies, so they know
quite a bit about the industry as a whole.

Anyway, it seems that Atari recognizes that their relationship with the
retailers needs improvement. So to fix that, they're trying a strategy to
"build bridges," in hopes that having friendlier retailers on their side will
help sell more Jaguars. Since the Southern California (Los Angeles and Orange
County) area is their biggest market, they're going to try a test-market down
here (almost two hundred retailers all together, if I've done my math right).

Ideally, Atari wants:

* To improve relationships with their established retailers in the area,
* To identify problems retailers are having that may stop them from selling
more Jaguars (such as distribution or quantity),
* To find out what games are selling, how many titles the stores carry, and
how salespeople and managers feel about Atari's efforts.

If this test plan is successful (it gets retailers enthused about selling
the Jaguar and backing Atari), it will be expanded nationwide. Again, this is
currently in the concept/testing stages more than anything else.

So what's the test plan?

1. Each dealer/outlet will be given several Jaguar games (ALIEN VS. PREDATOR,
These games are *FREE* to the store. If the manager wants to sell them, it's
an extra $150-$200 in profit right there. If the clerks want to keep them for
their own play, that's cool too.

2. If they want it, each dealer/outlet will receive a free set of Jaguar
merchandising material. This consists of a counter card, brochures, a
"dangler", a window decal, and a poster. Both the card and the poster
emphasize the $159 SRP price for the Jaguar; this is Atari's big push here,
the new lower price.

3. If they want it, each dealer/outlet can get a Jaguar kiosk as well. They
merely have to tell the Atari rep, who will forward the request for a *FREE*
kiosk to set up in the store. Those things cost $1300+ each, by the way...

4. The Atari representative will ask the dealer/manager about their feelings
with Atari and the Jaguar. They'll ask about sales (units sold, best-selling
games, etc.), suggestions, problems, advertising impressions, whatever.

--> For people in the Southern California area, Atari will be running a month-
long television advertising campaign (as part of this test) to promote the new
$159 price point. A new commercial is ready to roll, highlighting the best
games out now and showing quick glances at new titles (RAYMAN, FIGHT FOR LIFE,
BURN OUT, HOVER STRIKE, and ULTRA VORTEX were ones I remember seeing). If
you're in the area, check out KCOP, KTLA, and KCAL for commercials. Best
times to watch would be during local basketball games, weekend movies, STAR
details (yes, I have a copy of the planned commercial air dates).

5. Finally, after everything's been handed out, Wong & Associates will gather
the data, forward and requests, answer questions, and look at trends and
problems and whatnot.

Again, this is the short-term effort; what happens next will depend on how
the results look.

Since the discussion was very free-form, a lot of interesting information
also popped out onto the table. In no particular order:

* There is a very good chance that RAYMAN will be distributed/marketed by
Atari themselves, and not Ubi Soft. Advance word is that the game looks,
sounds, and plays better than DONKEY KONG COUNTRY, BTW.

* Advance word from the magazines is that ULTRA VORTEX got "great" reviews.
UV may also be distributed by Atari as well (I'm a little hazy on this point).

* The $199 Jaguar + pack-in game deals are history.

* The $159 Jaguar packages apparently came directly from Jack Tramiel himself.
While Sam and Gary and Leonard were toying around with the idea of discount
coupons after the Winter CES, Jack just said, "Why don't we knock the price
down to $159?" The idea is to duplicate the success of the Commodore 64 by
pricing it so low that people -can't- pass up the deal.

* The Jaguar CD-ROM is finished and piled up in warehouses. Atari is only
waiting for an impressive pack-in game to be finished (which IMO implies that
it will -not- be VID GRID). The pack-in was not specified; the current target
is to have Jaguar CDs on store shelves in time for E3.

* 20% of all video-game console sales are in Southern California alone.

* Atari's new director of game development (I didn't catch his name, sorry)
comes directly from Sega.

* Everyone present agreed that more games, and more impressive games, are
needed. "The lower price is PART of the solution, but not THE solution."

* Enthusiasm at Atari is still high; the falling Yen gives Atari more time
to establish a hold before the PlayStation and the Saturn and the Ultra 64
arrive, as the low-cost alternative.

* Atari can operate with as little as $12 million a year; the $90 million
from Sega is more than enough to keep the company going for several years,

Anyway, I hope you found this glimpse at Atari's efforts interesting, at
least. I thought it was interesting; it wasn't a blind "rah-rah" cheerleader
effort, and it wasn't an indifferent chore, either. Feel free to ask
questions; I can't promise I'll answer them all, but... B-)


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