Back in 1983, during the days of the Commodore 64, Amiga and Atari ST, two British entrepreneurs founded a game development studio called Ocean Software. Ocean first became successful on its own when the company began developing games based on popular films such as The NeverEnding Story (1984), Rambo, Short Circuit, Jurassic Park, and Lethal Weapon. Over the next 15 years, Ocean released approximately 200 licensed, independent and arcade games converted for home consoles and computers.
In 1996, the success of Ocean Software caught the attention of Infogrames, a growing developer house whose goal was to acquire other game studios to become the world’s leading game publisher. Ocean merged with Infogrames and became Infogrames United Kingdom, Ltd. and virtually ceased to exist. Infogrames also acquired the Atari brand between 2001 and 2008, and the Atari name was eventually adopted by the entire company.
Fast forward to 2022 and Atari Europe has filed a trademark application with the European Union Intellectual Property Office for the name Ocean, stating that products released under the Ocean brand will be “entertainment software for computer games”. However, digging deeper into the app shows that Atari may intend to do more than just release Ocean-branded video games. The listed goods and services also cover hardware such as consoles, controllers and gaming headsets, as well as virtual goods such as video game weapons, currency and skins. Streaming, subscriptions, game software rentals, and online gaming services “in the form of computer and video game tournaments” are also mentioned.
Of course, the categories specified in a trademark application are broad, with various goods and services grouped together. Thus, it is likely that Atari does not plan to use the Ocean trademark for any of the purposes listed. However, Atari has been actively working on a recovery strategy since 2014 after the company sold many of its assets to stave off bankruptcy. This has been noticeable from time to time, namely with the release of the Atari VCS console in 2020, the Atari gaming hotel, and the company’s expansion into NFTs and cryptocurrencies.
The company’s development strategy also includes the re-release of Atari’s entire catalog of classic games, as well as the development of mobile games and MMOs. In April 2021, the company restructured its operations to create a division called Atari Gaming, which will be dedicated to developing games for PC and consoles. These releases will be premium games with single player campaigns, multiplayer and online play, and some are already in development. In this light, it makes sense that Atari would start resurrecting previously successful brands and trademarks like Ocean Software. It will be interesting to see what long-defunct and forgotten names the company will revive next.