Last week saw the release of the first trailer for Blade Runner 2049, the long-in-development sequel to the science-fiction classic Blade Runner. Much like its predecessor, 2049 paints a dystopian vision of the future, one in which the earth’s general populace is relegated to dark, oppressive megalopolises, and replicants, bio-robotic androids that are all but human in appearance and conduct, are discriminated and hunted down.
And yet, for all the harrowing imagery depicted in the Blade Runner series, none is quite as striking as the appearance of a certain, long-forgotten video game company. Yes, that’s right, I’m talking about good ‘ol Atari:
When the original Blade Runner was released in 1982, Atari was still a fairly lucrative video game company; the idea that the creator of the highly successful Atari 2600 video game console and hits such as Missile Command and Breakout! would still be providing digital entertainment for the masses by the year Blade Runner takes place in (2019) seemed perfectly logical. Unfortunately, corporate mismanagement, the repeated release of rushed, poorly-received software and hardware, and the video game crash of 1983 plagued the gaming giant shortly after Blade Runner‘s release. After repeatedly failing to recoup its losses in the late 80s and early 90s with arcane consoles such as the Atari 7800, the Atari Lynx, and the Atari Jaguar, Atari’s name and remaining assets would go on to be sold and exchange hands multiple times, never again experiencing the financial success the pre-nascent video game company once knew.
But rather than revise this aberration of history, Blade Runner 2049 is choosing instead to embrace its predecessor’s retrofuturism, depicting Atari as being very much alive and well in the mid-21st century. Good on them – however, as it is unlikely that the movie will actually delve into what the company does in this near-future beyond investing in dauntingly large LED signs, I figured I would take it upon myself to gaze into Pardon The Gamer’s transdimensional crystal ball, and discover the best that Atari has to offer in the year 2049:
E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial: Elliot’s Counteroffensive
The 45th installment of the highly lucrative E.T. franchise, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial: Elliot’s Counteroffensive for the Atari Lobe sees the long-necked alien battling Elliot’s anarchist guerrillas once again, after Elliot’s body is recovered from the remains of the Alpha Centauri star system and resuscitated with replicant technology following the events of the previous game, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial: Supernova.
The game’s scenario is a far cry from the whimsical tone of the original E.T. film helmed by Steven Spielberg in 1982, but you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who is even aware that E.T. was a film in the first place. Following Spielberg’s death in 2026, Atari successfully negotiated with Spielberg’s estate to fully purchase the rights to the E.T. franchise so that it could systematically eliminate evidence of the film’s existence, in an effort to make the franchise’s increasingly bombastic atmosphere appear more natural, and not at odds with its past.
Like all games released for the Atari Lobe, Elliot’s Counteroffensive utilizes the Joy Module™, a micro virtual reifier attached to the player’s head that manipulates their parietal lobe into experiencing the same sensory information experienced by their in-game avatar. Elliot’s Counteroffensive, however, boasts a massive improvement in the series’ use of the Joy Module™: players can now feel each individual crease in E.T.’s wrinkly flesh, allowing them to be E.T. like never before. While tremendously detailed, the feature has proved divisive amongst longtime fans of the franchise, who feel that the wrinkling overwhelms their ability to discern between the severity of physical attacks endured when playing. Many of these fans have since gone on to found an online campaign to have the wrinkling removed called “Wrinklegate,” much to the chagrin of Atari.
Breakout 5D XL
In 1976, Atari created the 2D brick-breaker classic, Breakout. In 1984, Atari used the commercial success of its first E.T. game to fund Breakout 3D, the world’s first game to use three-dimensional polygonal graphics. In 2002, Atari collaborated with MIT to produce Breakout 4D, which featured four-dimensional tesseracts in need of being broken instead of three-dimensional cubes. And in 2045, Atari released Breakout 5D, which finally took the series into the fifth dimension. Four years later, Breakout 5D XL was intended to be the ultimate iteration of the franchise, one that packaged all previous entries in the series together, and came with an action figure (only in three dimensions, unfortunately) of the fourth game’s protagonist, Yggdrasil the Inconceivable.
However, shortly after the compilation’s release, it was discovered that the Yggdrasil statutes contained trace amounts of radon in them, as a result of being accidentally constructed in the same plant in which Atari’s Light and Energy co. disposes of its uranium cores. Thankfully, Atari was quick to respond to the newly created crisis, cordoning off the symptomatic into a single, concentrated area in the center of the country using their All-Terrain Enforcement Drones and the bribing – sorry, I mean cooperation – of the department of Homeland Procedural Defense, with the intention of de-radiating the irradiated populace in time. However, this initiative goes against reports made over the past month by a number of reputable posters on the controversial neoAtari forum, who who claim that Atari is actually in the process of systematically eliminating these people.
Atari, when reached for a comment, said that it “did not comment on rumors and speculation.”
Of Atari’s many new offerings in 2049, none saw such profound innovation as the latest iteration in company’s seminal platformer-turned-AR-game-series, Pitfall GoGoGo, did. While the series has used augmented reality since 2022 to create pitfalls in real life that players must physically avoid in order to obtain credits, Pitfall GoGoGo, released exclusively for generation 12 OmniPhones and inteliPads, now temporarily paralyzes players that step into its AR pitfalls using a powerful electric shock administered from the Phone or Pad being used.
The game initially proved be a nightmare for law enforcement officials, as dozens upon dozens of players founds themselves unwittingly paralyzed in the streets upon stepping into pitfalls after forgetting to turn off the game, resulting the game being temporarily banned until Atari issued a patch that would result in the game automatically turning off after 40 minutes of inactivity. Abroad, the game generated even more controversy, with Vladston Mikhailov, the current leader of the S.C.E.A.N. (the Soviet Confederation of European and Asian Nations), condemned the game, claiming it to be part of an American conspiracy to weaken the confederacy’s citizens in preparation for a hostile takeover.
Currently, the game hosts a significantly smaller, much more cautionary userbase than during its initial month of release. So if you see a mass of people sprawled out in the middle of the street in a vaguely circular shape, don’t worry – that’s probably just the hydrogen sulfide levels.
Rounding out Atari’s eclectic palette of releases in 2049 is none other than a blast from the past: Pac-Man Classic, a port of the beloved Atari 2600 game from 1982. From the iconic, flickering ghosts, to Pac-Man’s irresistible “ding-ding” sound effect made when consuming pellets, Pac-Man Classic is a masterclass in game design and programming for both old and new players alike.
At least, that’s what Billy Mitchell, an old, wizened player that had been gaming since the earliest days of the industry, wanted to believe. And yet, something about Atari’s re-release of Pac-Man just felt…off. What is it, he thought, as he zipped past ghosts and saw his score tick ever higher. What is it about this game that feels so…sacrilegious?
Within his head, an ugly realization started to come into focus. “Wait minute,” gasped Mitchell. “This game…it’s not…Namco!” Suddenly, a squad of men in black tactical gear burst through Mitchell’s window. Before the elderly man could react, he found himself pinned down and struck unconscious by the butt of a century rifle. “Mission accomplish,” the squad leader said into his walkie-talkie, as the rest of the squad prepared the body for extraction.
“The secret is safe.”
And those are some of the Atari games of 2049 we could have had the chance to play, had Atari not crashed and burned before the turn of the century. Hopefully the experiences detailed within will not distract you from the despondency of gaming today. And hey, if they do, try tracking down Atari in whatever form it exists today, and see if they’ll hire you so that you can make Pitfall GoGoGo a reality. We have to distract ourselves from the impending hydrogen sulfide somehow.