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Atari announces Pong contest for indie iOS devs

(Disclaimer: As you'll read below, I'm serving as a judge in this competition, though I'm not getting paid or compensated for any time I'm contributing to it.)

Atari has been betting big on iOS lately. It recently released a Greatest Hits app with its own controller, as well as remakes like Breakout: Boost (our review) and Asteroids: Gunner. Now the original Atari classic, Pong, is being re-imagined and the company wants help from iOS developers.

Atari is offering up to US$100,000 to indie developers who can put together an "original take" on Pong for iOS devices. The contest is essentially a publishing deal. Developers can make an iOS game and submit it to the judging panel, which includes Atari founder Nolan Bushnell, Pocket God creator Dave Castelnuovo and me, TUAW's Mike Schramm. The winner of the contest will be published by Atari on the App Store.

In addition, community-based voting will help determine both a community winner and the overall winner, so you'll be able to have a voice in the proceedings as well. The contest's official rules are now available online, and it's basically an opportunity to do some spec work for Atari (some developers have objections -- see Update below). The winner gets a publishing deal with Atari, so part of that $100,000 prize is going to come from splitting up App Store sales, not just a giant check.

Still, if you're an iOS developer who's been looking for an idea to jump on, and think you've got a compelling spin on Pong, here's your opportunity to work with a pioneering video game company. I look forward to your entries, and wish good luck to everyone who decides to compete!

Update: The rules and regulations for the contest have made it online, and as developer Brian Robbins notes, they're pretty heinous: Atari is basically asking devs to make games for them on spec, with no real indication or guarantee that they'll make money, even if they win the contest (Atari points out that there are some cash prizes, in addition to the publishing deals: $50,000 for first place, $37,500 for second, $25,000 for third, and $5,000 each for up to seven more runner-ups. But obviously, this requires developers to "win" -- if a lot of work is poured into an idea that doesn't make it, there's no guarantee of any reward at all, and the spec couldn't ever be published separately without major changes.)

I will say that even despite my reservations about a scheme like this, I am still behind the contest as a judge, and I still think it represents an opportunity to work with Atari that a lot of indie developers might not normally get. But devs, don't go into this thing blind: Know that by entering a contest like this, you're basically entering an arena in which Atari holds most of the cards. If you don't want to submit your game in this way, there's always the option of just publishing on your own.

Show full PR text
Atari Announces the $100,000 Pong® Indie Developer Challenge

Winners Receive Cash Prize, Publishing Agreements and Industry Accolades

LOS ANGELES – Feb. 28, 2012 – In celebration of Atari's and Pong's 40th anniversary, the company
today announced the official start of its Pong® Indie Developer Challenge, calling on entrants to reimagine
the classic game for a chance to win up to $100,000 and see their vision go from concept to market.
Beginning Feb. 28, 2012, developers can submit their original take on Pong® for iPhone, iPad and iPod
touch devices, with finalists launching their games on the App Store later this year under the Atari brand.
Winning entries will also receive a long-term publishing agreement with Atari that includes development,
creative resources and full marketing support. Submissions are now being accepted until March 31st, 2012,
11:59pm ET, at: www.atari.com/pongdeveloperchallenge

Following the success of Atari's recent indie-developed mobile games including Asteroids®: Gunner™,
Atari's Greatest Hits© and Breakout®: Boost, the Pong® Indie Developer Challenge opens the door
for up-and-coming developers to deliver the next smash hit. The judging panel will include notable
industry figureheads, including original Atari founder Nolan Bushnell, infamous Pocket God creator
Dave Castelnuovo, TUAW's Mike Schramm, and select members of Atari's executive team. Atari fans
can participate by submitting their own votes during the selection of an Atari Community Winner. An
additional community voting period will also help to determine overall contest winners, details of which
will be revealed soon.

"The Pong Indie Developer Challenge is a great opportunity to celebrate the 40th anniversary of an iconic
game franchise," said Jim Wilson, CEO of Atari. "We are enthusiastic about working with the independent
developer community to evolve Pong through a wide variety of creative concepts and gameplay
experiences that will further engage our Atari fan base and introduce new consumers to this pioneering
video game franchise."

For full details regarding the contest and rules, including how to submit, eligibility, timing of submissions
and prizes, please visit: www.atari.com/pongdeveloperchallenge

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- Visit our website: www.atari.com
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