Atari attacks App Store game developers

Longtime video game maker claims copyright infringement on hundreds of apps

Sometimes it pays to be the first. Classic video game maker Atari is now on the offensive and threatening legal action against any game developers the company believes may be infringing up its intellectual property.

Atari recently accused fellow game developer Black Powder Media of infringing its copyright, forcing Apple Inc.’s App Store to pull a pair of iOS games—“Vector Tanks” and “Vector Tanks Extreme.” The games in question are tank battle games comprised entirely of vector graphics, which harkens back to the game art style of the 1980s, when Atari was among the most prominent game developers.

According to Black Powder Media’s Kickstarter page, “Atari appears to be paving the way for a reissuing of their classics by putting the squeeze on hundreds of apps! Anything that has even a passing resemblance to an Atari classic has been issued a copyright infringement claim.”

Black Powder goes on to assert that Atari has a special relationship with Apple, and was able to clear the App Store of many potential competitors by simply issuing the threat of legal action. As a result, a large number of tank and asteroid shooting games were immediately pulled “without so much as a rebuttal or independent evaluation.”

The reason for Atari’s newfound vigilance, Black Powder says, is that the company plans to reissue many of its classic games for iOS.

While Atari has had an Atari arcade app available for some time, it recently released updated versions of games “Breakout” and “Asteroids,” and may be planning an update of “Battlezone”—the game by which “Vector Tanks” was supposedly inspired.

In response to Black Powder’s claims, Joystiq obtained the following statement from Atari:

"For companies like Atari, our intellectual property portfolio is our most valued asset. While we have great respect for the indie developer community and greatly appreciate the enthusiasm that they have for our renowned properties, we need to vigorously protect our intellectual property and ensure that it is represented in highly innovative games. We have been actively engaging with numerous established and up and coming developers to help us re-imagine our iconic franchises, and outside app developers have already helped us produce two top 10 mobile game successes in Asteroids: Gunner and Breakout: Boost. We look forward to further developing strong relationships with the indie app development community through additional games that we will be releasing in the future."

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