It's been 40 years since Atari ignited
the video game industry with Pong, and now the legendary studio is
giving independent developers an opportunity to put their own spin on
the classic table tennis game for a (potentially) big pay day.
On now, Atari's Pong Indie Developer Challenge is calling on game makers to submit their unique iOS
versions of Pong for a chance to be included in an upcoming release
and score prize money for their efforts. Specifically, 10
semi-finalists will be lumped together in Atari's upcoming PONG Pak,
while the top three entrants will go on to win actual cash and a
publishing agreement with Atari that includes promotional and
developmental support. For the grand prize winner, that means $50,000
in cash upfront, with the ability to make up to $50,000 more in
gross revenues from the finished product.
Judging the contest are none other than
the Atari founder himself, Nolan Bushnell; as well as Dave
Castelnuovo, creator of Pocket God; TUAW's Mike Schramm, and various
At first glance, Atari's 40th
Anniversary competition is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to work
the studio that (arguably) started it all and get face time with the Nolan Bushnell. On closer inspection of the contest's rules, however, the opportunity comes with a few important caveats.
As pointed out by Eurogamer, all Pong Indie Developer Challenge
entrants immediately lose any and all rights to their ideas, meaning
Atari can conceivably cherrypick the best ideas, develop a similar
version, and reap the rewards with no legal recourse from the
Entries become the sole and exclusive property of Sponsor and will
not be acknowledged or returned,” reads section 6 of the fine
print, preceded by, “Sponsor (whether itself or through its
affiliates, contractors, vendors, agents or licensees) shall be free
to create, develop, produce and publish any interactive game, even if
such game is competitive with or substantially similar to any of
Eligible Entrant’s actual or proposed Entry, anything to the
contrary herein notwithstanding.”
addition, while the contest does offer “up to $100,000” for the
top winner, $50,000 of that is dependent on how well the game
performs and how much gross revenue Atari pockets from its sale. The
upfront $50,000 is still a nice little payout, but one also has to
factor in all the time and money it will take to develop the demo,
video, and documents required to make it through to the final level.
everything else in life, Atari's Pong Indie Developer Challenge comes
with fine print. The rewards are undeniably sweet, but potential
competitors would do well know exactly what they're getting into.
Submissions are being accepted up until March 31, with the first
round of semi-finalists to be announced on April 6.
UPDATE: Atari has since released a statement on that fine print, clarifying a few points. Here's what the company had to say:
"Pong Indie Developer Challenge was conceived as a way
for the gaming community to celebrate Atari's and Pong's upcoming 40th
anniversary. It is a great opportunity for indie developers to have a
successful launch on a very competitive App Store by leveraging an iconic and
well-known brand and tapping into a huge, passionate community. Our hope is
that developers will not only see the value of cash prizes but
also the chance to actually publish their own Pong under the Atari brand
and with our full launch support. A successful launch is the
ultimate chance for developers to show off their talent and creativity to
the larger Atari and iOS community.
Pong Indie Developer Challenge is a contest with real cash prizes plus the
ability to participate in revenue sharing from the first dollar. Winners will
receive cash up front: $50k for 1st place, $37.5k for 2nd, $25k for third
and up to seven runner-ups will grab $5k each. That prize money is not recouped
against future royalties. Thus winners receive prize money up
front, access to revenue sharing from first dollar and an opportunity
to release a game alongside our other successful iOS titles.
We look forward to seeing creative submissions and supporting the winners on
the App Store."