And Atari seems to be at the centre of nearly every damn one of them.
Possibly the most well known story revolves around the biggest console in the list. Sony was producing sound chips for Nintendo when they were approached to create a CD add-on for the Super Nintendo in efforts to compete with the Sega CD. Sony complied, and produced the system even delivering information including specifications and images to the press, hinting at potential games, and sending 200 prototypes to developers. The project and collaboration was cancelled however, when Sony wanted to retain control over format and licensing when Nintendo wanted to own everything about the system. Ironically, when the hardware emerged again in 1994 in the form of the Sony PlayStation, it undercut Nintendo’s efforts significantly, and even saw Sega and Atari out the door of the industry itself.
Sega Genesis / Mega Drive
With the Sega Master System bringing home a meagre under 2 million unit sales in the US, Sega approached Atari for help with its Mega Drive release in 1988. At the time, Atari was almost top of its market, producing systems that dominated early console gaming and wiping the floor with anyone who dared stand up to them. Sega’s console was, in the end, released as the Mega Drive in Europe, and Genesis in North America (due to another Mega Drive Systems operating at that time), though Atari were the ones who delivered the name Genesis in the first place. Though negotiations even made it through to Atari hiring writers for possible Genesis games, they ultimately fell through when Atari CEO Jack Tramiel pursued worldwide rights to the console, whereas Sega wanted to keep Europe because of existing arrangements with UK companies.
Nintendo Entertainment System
In 1983, Nintendo sent Atari an extremely early version of its NES, after asking for their assistance releasing and marketing the console in the west. Atari weighed this option against their 7800 ProSystem and suggested to brand Nintendo’s offering, on the condition that it was renamed the Nintendo Advanced Video Gaming System. Negotiations dissolved when Nintendo wanted to manufacture all the hardware itself and control the sales prices, and when Atari felt that their 7800 was a better system. Not only did the NES prove them shamefully wrong, but Nintendo dodged a bullet with the name.
The Atari Lynx was the world’s first handheld gaming machine with colour LCD, and Atari’s second handheld release (the first being a rather dubiously named handheld game called “Touch Me”). The Lynx was originally designed however, by the team behind the Commodore Amiga. Epyx commissioned its creation, and named it the Handy. However they soon realised they didn’t have the financial stamina to release the handheld, and sought out a bigger dog to do the leg work. They initially approached Nintendo, who responded by showing off their GameBoy causing the team to retreat, tale between legs. Sega quickly shut down any prospect of working with the handheld. It wasn’t until Epyx contacted Atari that things got moving, and the Atari Lynx was born.