The first annual Pong Day has been declared, celebrating the 45th anniversary of Atari’s table tennis video game. First released on November 29, 1972, Pong became the first commercially successful video game and a source of nostalgia for many. Atari hopes this claim to fame—along with new products—will fuel its resurgence as a lifestyle brand.
“A lot of the things we are doing are rooted in the notion that Atari and Pong didn’t just start the video game industry, it launched a lifestyle movement that still endures today,” Atari Connect COO Michael Arzt told AListDaily. “Atari has the unique distinction of being able to say we were there at the beginning and are still here.”
In addition to publishing video games like Rollercoaster Tycoon, Atari now offers connected products beginning with its line of Speakerhats. These Audiowear-powered, Bluetooth-enabled Speakerhats play audio through speakers in the visor or headphones. In honor of Pong Day, a Pong Anniversary Limited-Edition Speakerhat has been added to the lineup.
Following a successful Kickstarter campaign, a coffee table version of Pong is expected to launch in the first quarter of 2018. Table Pong recreates the original game in 3D with motors, rails, pulleys, and magnets while offering Bluetooth connectivity and four USB charging ports.
Pong Day is designed to strike an emotional chord with generation X, which grew up with the game, but Atari also wants to reach younger audiences.
“For those old enough to remember, it’s a celebration of ‘the game that started it all’,” said Arzt. “So many of our classic Atari fans have fond memories of their first encounter with the revolutionary little TV game tucked in among the pinball machines at their local hangout, or the day that mom or dad brought home that box from Sears, tuned the TV to channel three and blew their minds.
“For younger video game fans, it’s a celebration of how far the industry has come—into an age of online PC gaming, 4K home consoles, advanced VR, mobile gaming, esports and so much more—that all started with a little beeping dot. It reminds game and entertainment fans of all ages where we’ve been and where we will go with exciting new products like the Ataribox, new games and our various lifestyle products.”
Atari received a boost in public awareness thanks to a prominent spot in the trailer for Blade Runner 2049. When the brand appeared in the original Blade Runner in 1982, it was still a new and popular gaming company. Much has happened since then, and although Atari’s elite video game status may have been overshadowed by PlayStation, Xbox and Nintendo, it never stopped trying to create the next thing ‘that started it all.’
In the meantime, Atari is well aware of its naysayers.
“A lot of people like to dismiss us because we are not the same Atari that created Pong and the 2600, but it’s about the brand,” said Arzt. “It’s had ups and downs, but it’s endured, persevered and even triumphed on occasion. It’s still here and still means a whole lot to a lot of people because of all the fun its provided. As we continue to create new products for both our classic fans and new fans, that idea of the Atari Connected Lifestyle will thread through them all.”
If you think Atari is holding on to its past a little too tightly, it’s a great time to do just that. Shopping at the thrift store and buying albums on vinyl isn’t just for hipsters anymore.
“Clearly we’re in a wonderful pop-culture, retro-driven cycle right now where everything old is new again, and it’s a good time to be Atari,” said Arzt. “They say the definition of good luck is when preparation meets opportunity. We’ve been preparing for years!”
Arzt added that the brand has a lot of cool ideas and “a couple hundred iconic franchises to tap,” so Pong Day is just the beginning.