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© 1997-2006
Gareth Knight
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Unsolved Mysteries: Who currently owns the rights to the Atari 2600 games by Amiga?

This page is a work in progress that may, or may not be updated again. It is intended too show my recent findings regarding the current ownership of the classic Atari 2600 games that were produced by Amiga BEFORE they were bought by Commodore. More information on these games can be found by clicking on the BACK button at the bottom of the page.

As long time Amiga and Atari fans will know, the original Amiga Corp. began as a hardware/software developer for the Atari 2600. Jay Miner had been on the design team for the Atari 2600 (called Stella at the time), and knew every part of the system. While developing Atari products, the company secretly set about developing an advanced computer, code named Lorraine. As everyone knows, Commodore bought Amiga Corp. and released the Lorraine as the A1000. In the clamour to release the Amiga 16-bit machine, the old 8-bit titles many forgot about the early Amiga products. Interest was only renewed over ten years later with the rise of the Internet and the development of emulators, allowing people to play these old games on their computer. The prototypes that surfaced over the years in US thrift stores were dumped, allowing a new generation to experience the delights of games that never made it on to the shelves. In just a few seconds the Internet user could download games they never even knew existed. However, there was a catch- the downloaded games were illegal in the eyes of the law. Even though in many cases a company no longer made money from their 15+ year old games, they still owe the copyright. A right that they could use at any moment (see Elite, Tetris, and Atari games for examples). In September 1999 I became interested in expanding upon AiG's coverage of the early Amiga Corporation, and sought to distribute the prototype Atari games on my site. However, there was still the sticky situation of copyright to contend with so I began to investigate who currently owned the rights to these games. At the time I thought this would be a relatively simple matter, but after 3 previous owners working out who owned what was just the beginning of my troubles.

The search began when I emailed Petro Tyschtschenko from Amiga (the company) asking for permission to distribute the Atari 2600 prototype ROM images. They owned all rights to the Amiga, making it the obvious choice. His response came just a few hours later, quite impressive considering the amount of work that Amiga seem to be involved in. The answer came as a surprise when he revealed that Amiga were not the owners of these games. Petro suggested I try posting to the Atari User Groups for help. I had already done this just a few hours before but had received nothing that would aid in my quest. Fortunately Petro's short answer clarified a number of things, indicating what time period I should look at.

In 1997 Gateway bought Amiga Technologies from the remains of Escom, lock, stock and barrel. If the existing Amiga company did not own the rights, as Petro indicated, it is unlikely that Amiga Technologies did either. This meant it would be necessary to backtrack to the Commodore era to see if the games were mentioned in the Commodore liquidation during 1994. To find out more I contacted a few of those who had worked for Commodore or had reported on its demise. My first thought was to email someone who had an intimate knowledge of the liquidation. Someone who had regularly reported the latest news to the Amiga users over the internet. Unfortunately, they weren't available so I contacted Jason Compton instead!
Jason had been the Amiga users eyes and ears to the unfolding events at Commodore. He had talked to people taking part in the liquidation and had seen a list of the liquidated stock. The response I got seemed to deepen the mystery. Jason Compton suggested that the existing Amiga Inc. could be wrong in their statement that they do not own the rights. The items were not listed in the archive that was made following Commodore's liquidation, but he pointed out that this does not mean that Commodore did not own them, just that they were not upheld. To double check on this, I sent an email to the Team Amiga mailing list asking for help. Key Amiga personalities from the past and present lurk on the list and it is an active forum for discussion. Responses to my plea were interesting but irrelevant. Dr. Peter Kittel confirmed that the Atari 2600 games were not in the archive of Commodore property made after the Escom take-over. The oldest item from those times was just 1 Joyboard. This was not strictly relevant, but finally showed who currently owns this unique piece of hardware. If only Gateway would manufacture an updated version.

Further comments by Jason Compton opened another possibility. He speculated that, based upon Amiga Corp's financial situation at the time, they may have sold the publishing rights to a rival Atari 2600 developer to gain further funds. I have great difficulty dismissing this possibility. Certainly the unreleased PowerPlay Arcade series showed that Amiga Corp. had held discussions with U.S. Games and Imagic. Could the licensing agreement between Amiga Corp. and these two companies led to the sale of Amiga's software catalogue? Of course this is pure speculation on my part. The Atari 8-bit community has not turned up any such deal that would point to a sale. Atari magazines of the time hardly mention Amiga products, providing no evidence to confirm or deny the speculation. The only people who would know the answer to these burning questions would be those who worked at Amiga Corp. at the time. The first former member contacted was Carl Sassenrath. He is noted for his contribution to the Amiga over the years; he created EXEC, CDXL, and is currently developing the Rebol language. He is also fairly active in the Amiga scene, residing in a number of Amiga newsgroups and mailing lists. Unfortunately, he was unable to answer any questions about the Atari 2600 games. His memory seems to be quite hazy on the subject and was probably forgotten while he was busy on more important things.

Where do I go from here?

All that is left to write is my current plan of action. Hopefully I will be able to update this page as new information comes to light. The most immediate task is to find out what pieces of Amiga Corp, Commodore actually bought. I have already tracked down two more former Amiga Corp. employees and am waiting for a response so I may have some more information on what happened to these games during 1983/4 . I've also contacted a number of Atari users and programmers, as well as a Gateway employee to try and shed some light upon the subject. If anyone has more to add on this subject please contact me at the address on the home page.

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