The website MobyGames was launched in 1999, the intention being to create a huge videogame database via crowdsourcing—a goal that it has certainly achieved, being one of the most useful repositories of things like game credits and box art there is. In November last year, Atari announced a potential deal to purchase MobyGames for $1.5 million from owner Antstream, and this deal has now been completed.
"The MobyGames community has played a sustained and important role in the documentation, celebration and preservation of video games and supporting MobyGames allows us to give back to the community, and contribute to its growth and success," Atari CEO Wade Rosen said in a press release announcing the acquisition. "It’s important to Atari that MobyGames retains every bit of its integrity, and we’re committed to supporting the site in ways that improve the experience for both contributors and users."
Jeremiah Freyholtz, who's been running MobyGames since 2013, remains in his role. "In Atari, MobyGames has found a partner that will provide the investment and support we need to complete long-planned site improvements," said Freyholtz. "I am confident this transition will allow MobyGames to remain an important community-driven project, and that Atari’s involvement best positions us for long-term stability and success."
In a separate announcement on the MobyGames site, Freyholtz added that "Atari understands how important our project is for the gaming community and they’re well aligned with our plans to improve the database and tools. In fact, Atari’s new CEO is a retro gamer/collector and long time fan of the site!"
As for the promised improvements to MobyGames' functionality: "We will now be investing in full-time development (we've been operating with part-time dev) to complete the new site that’s been in the works the past few years," writes Freyholtz. "Which will replace our 20+ year old codebase and tools. It’s currently in beta testing with our admins and approvers. We’ll be expanding the beta as development gets ramped up. Stay tuned!"
It's easy to be cynical about the modern form of Atari, and it doesn't help that it's into selling NFTs and gets in silly public spats with SouljaBoy. But it's also worth acknowledging that, with things like the 'reborn' VCS, while the hardware may well be overpriced and underpowered, it does actually exist.
The Atari brand has been through so many hands over the years, most of which cared only about wringing it dry, that it can't help but be tainted by that history. The current lot... OK, there's the hotels that look like a 1980s fever dream, and the crypto. But this version of Atari has also made a decent attempt at bringing back some of the classics, getting its older library playable, and has made itself a hardware manufacturer again. I mean, they're not just flogging t-shirts with the logo.
You have to look at MobyGames and be optimistic that this acquisition is happening for the right reasons. A video game database may well tick along making a little bit of profit, but it's nothing like a get-rich-quick scheme, and the nature of MobyGames means any 'bad' decisions about its purpose or functionality will get thrown right back by the people who actually build it. I'm as guilty as anyone of being cynical about modern Atari: but this acquisition, and how it re-launches the site, could be a redemptive note in its ongoing story.