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Atari co-founder fed up with today’s mobile games, says he’ll make them better

Nolan Bushnell thinks mobile games could be better, and he's going to show everyone how it's supposed to be done.

Published onApril 29, 2016

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Gather around, my children, and I’ll tell you a tale about the revival of the fantasy genre. Once upon a time, in the mid-nineties, a science fiction author looked over at the fantasy section of the bookstore and was disgusted by how formulaic these stories had become. He decided that if he wanted something done right, he’d have to do it himself. That man’s name was George R. R. Martin, and today Game of Thrones is practically everyone’s favorite addiction in both book and TV form. Now Atari co-founder Nolan Bushnell wants to do the same thing with mobile games.

“I have been so pissed off with some mobile games I’ve wanted to throw my phone, even if I’m only going to hurt my phone there, and not the game,” Bushnell told The Guardian. “Generally, a tremendous number of mobile games are poorly designed. They can be so focused on graphics that they forget they have to get the timing right, and they have to have proper scoring constructs.” Bushnell is essentially telling the mobile gaming community to stand back, because he’s got this. The Pong commissioner, who is no longer with Atari, has partnered with the Dutch game publisher Spil and is signed up to create three upcoming titles.


Bushnell believes that mobile gaming and arcade gaming are essentially the same. However, when he began game development in the seventies, constrictions abounded. Developers basically just had white squares that they could move around on a black background. Since graphics weren’t going to wow anybody, a heavy focus had to be placed on game design.

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The concept that games should be easy to learn but difficult to master is in fact called Bushnell’s Law. The ‘godfather of gaming’ says that he believes this feature is blatantly absent in the vast majority of mobile games. Whereas arcade games were forced to focus on gameplay, mobile devs now have powerful processors and gorgeous displays to render stylish and impressive graphics. However, this focus on aesthetics, in Bushnell’s opinion, has cut out the heart of gaming. What brings us back to a game, as any Dark Souls fan will attest, is the challenge of gameplay and the thrill of overcoming obstacles. Mobile games, in contrast, have developed a reputation as being simple, idle time-killers. Bushnell says he won’t tolerate it anymore.

What do you think of Atari’s co-founder throwing his hat into the mobile gaming ring? Do you agree with his diagnosis of the modern mobile gaming landscape? Give us your opinions in the comments below!

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