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Atari Goes Social with GO; Partners with Pirates

In an interview with Edge Magazine posted Friday, Atari's executive vice president of online and mobile Tom Kozik said that the company doesn't plan to legally attack websites hosting illegal copies of its Atari Games Online (GO) titles. Instead, the company wants to integrate these sites into its affiliate program, offering chunks of the revenue pie instead of legal woes.

Atari GO, officially announced on Thursday, is the company's attempt to play "catch-up" with the social gaming scene. The new online platform will support the development of new online casual and social games. Atari said that more than a dozen studios are actively developing new casual games and social titles for the new service.

Given that, why would Atari team up with those stealing from its new social platform? "Truth be told, why in the world would I ever want to go after my fans?" he said in the interview. "These are people who absolutely love our classic old arcade games. I joke about the fact that it seems like every computer science student, after their first year of programming class, goes off and writes a copy of Asteroids or Missile Command or Battlezone. The web is filthy with those."

He goes on. "Now, instead of arming up a cadre of lawyers the smart thing to do is say, "Look, you're fans of our games, let us give you the legitimate version of the game," and then bring those affiliates into the fold by saying, "We'll actually share revenue with you." They've been running that less than optimal, if not [coughs] a little dodgy, version of Asteroids or Missile Command, so why not just run the original one, share in the revenue and still have the same appeal to the fans they want to draw to their site? And we've got the library of all our other great games that we can bring to them as well."

Kozik added that Atari benefits from sites hosting unauthorized versions because they already helped establish a fan base. This will benefit Atari in the long run as it battles for popularity against current established social networks.

"They're already out there in those same numbers, playing on those sites, but they're not connected socially--they're not getting the advantage from any of the other games in the market from us," he said. "So it's an opportunity for us to really hit the same numbers, but instead of trying to draw everybody to one social network or one portal, I can take the games to the edge, to where people are already at."

To read the full interview, head here.