Atari on Demand: So That’s What the Internet is For

Launching with 35 titles, Atari On Demand is a new service that allows subscribers to play unlimited Atari games for a $14.95 (€12.37) monthly fee. The games are specially packaged versions of back catalogue titles – and they use a special player application to protect their content, reduce download size and simplify the process. Subscribers don’t download and install titles – they’re downloaded to the player and it does everything else.

The Atari Player is by Exent Technologies Inc., and is based on their EXEtender application. EXEtender (Don’t. Make. Me. Type. It. Again.) technology is already used in game services in America, Europe and Asia. The service is Windows only – games are streamed to the subcriber’s PC and the Atari Player ensures that the destination PC can handle all the application-specific bits and pieces before the download begins.

Packaging the games in this way has another useful benefit aside from DRM and ease of installation – the binary files for the packaged games are 50% to 60% of the size of the full installer. It could be that these kind of sites might tempt users away from illegal P2P services just because the games take half as long to install, and are much less bother. We certainly hope so.

Before you hit the link and disappear from this article to the Atari site forever, the selection of games is a little weak at the moment. In fact, it really is very weak being comprised of recent titles from Infogrammes. Hopefully they’ll expand the range very quickly and get some old stuff in there as Infogrammes have abused the Atari brand to foist rubbish on the general public who only remember Atari’s proud arcade history. Consequently, we find it amazing that they chose to launch with a title like Trophy Hunter 2003 (shooting moose) and not Bezerk (shooting yellow robots).

Now Sega – are you paying attention?

Atari Unlimited

Atari Explorer – a beautiful site detailing the history of the company

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Fraser Lovatt

Fraser Lovatt has spent the last fifteen years working in publishing, TV and the Internet in various capacities, and believes that they will be seperate platforms for at least a while yet. His main interests at the moment are exploring where Linux is taking home entertainment and how technology is conferring technical skills on more and more people. Fraser Lovatt was born in the same year that 2001: A Space Odyssey was delighting and confusing people in the cinemas, and developed a lifelong love of technology as soon as he realised that things could be taken apart, sometimes put back together again, but mostly left in bits or made into something the original designer hadn't quite planned upon. At school he was definitely in the ZX Spectrum/Magpie/BMX camp, rather than the BBC Micro/Blue Peter/well-behaved group. This is all deeply ironic as he later went on to spend nine years working at the BBC. After a few years of working as a bookseller in Scotland, ("Back when it was actually a skilled profession" he'll tell anyone still listening), he moved to England for reasons he can't quite explain adequately to himself. After a couple of publishing jobs punctuated by sporadic bursts of travelling and photography came the aforementioned nine years at the BBC where he specialised in internet technologies and video. These days his primary interests are Java, Linux, videogames and pies - and if they're not candidates for convergence, then what is?