Atari is unveiling Pridefest, an iOS game that in a rare move targets the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) market. It’s a major effort to create a social-simulation game that celebrates pride festivals, such as events in cities such as San Francisco.
Pridefest should debut on iOS tablets and mobile devices in the fall of 2014. It comes on the heels of GaymerX, last week’s conference that targeted the LGBT gamers and other markets that haven’t gotten much attention from the mainstream video game establishment over the years. In Pridefest, players can create their own personalized pride parades in a city of their choosing.
“It’s a city-building game with puzzles involved,” said Atari chief operating officer Todd Shallbetter in an interview with GamesBeat. “It has social features where users can connect in a moderated fashion. Our goal is to make a fun game that is inclusive for everybody. It’s a celebration of pride and inclusiveness. It is centered on the pride of being who we are.”
It’s a risk for New York-based Atari, which is under new management after going through bankruptcy proceedings. Some still consider LGBT-themed media as controversial, and many brands have been slow to acknowledge this growing market.
“Gaming is the largest entertainment sector in the world, and Atari is one of the most recognizable and iconic brands. To have them support our conference and cause, as well as bring an LGBTQ-themed game to market is a huge step toward equality in gaming,” said Matt Conn, the founder of GaymerX, in a statement. “It’s extremely important that we see these large publishers like Atari stepping up to the plate, and I’m excited that they have the courage to take the first step in supporting the community.”
“There hasn’t been overt criticism of this approach at all. People seem generally excited and accepting. I would have expected some other sort of response. But it has been 100 percent positive.”
Back in 2013, Atari’s French owner, Atari S.A. (formerly Infogrames S.A.), and its North American divisions, filed for bankruptcy protection. Fred Chesnais acquired the company and its properties last fall. Chesnais talked more about the strategy, and Shallbetter recently revealed more details now about the new strategy for what he calls an “interactive entertainment production company.” That means that it will move beyond traditional gaming.
“Fred Chesnais has wanted to make this game for a while,” Shallbetter said. “We have a very supportive and diverse team. All walks of life are represented in our organization.”
Shallbetter said the game will be sensitive to the LGBT community, and the company is consulting with the organizers of pride festivals.
“The input has been helpful,” Shallbetter said. “It takes a village to raise a child. We are very collaborative.”
Shallbetter said the Pridefest is one of the bigger efforts under development at Atari. The art style is two-dimensional with “faux 3D.” Players can create their own parade flotillas with colorful decorations. They can build attractions and entertainment within a city, with the goal of keeping the city happy and vibrant. Players solve challenges and complete quests to unlock parade and festival supplies, or receive other bonuses. You can visit the cities of friends and create avatars bedecked in clothes and jewelry. You can build businesses that thrive, and each building has a “fun capacity” that can be filled.
“I hope it lives up to everybody’s expectations, including ours,” Shallbetter said. “We will certainly try to message our games to the pride events around the country.”
Atari recently sponsored and attended the second GaymerX convention, where LGBT gamers united in a celebration of equality and diversity in gaming. Other games and game companies are finally acknowledging the LGBT market.
“We had a fantastic response from the community,” Shallbetter said.
Atari will show more details about the game and how it looks soon.