It appears that on July 1st, Warner Bros. will assume control of the company currently known as Midway Games. This will be the THIRD time that Warner will have control of the old Atari properties and also marks the end of an era for both Midway and the brand once known as Williams. This article outlines a history of these four companies as they relate to each other.
1972: Atari is founded by Nolan Bushnell.
1973: Midway and Williams enter the arcade video game industry.
1976: Warner Communications acquires Atari.
1984: Atari splits into two: the consumer division is sold off as Atari Corp while Warner keeps the arcade division, Atari Games.
1986: Atari Games becomes independent.
1988: Williams acquires Midway. RIP MIDWAY
1990: Warner again acquires Atari Games.
1996: Williams acquires Atari Games from Warner.
1998: Midway becomes independent, taking all of Williams‘ intellectual properties with it.
2001: Midway closes its arcade division.
2003: Midway closes Midway Games West. RIP ATARI
2009: Warner acquires Midway.
Williams and Midway were fierce competitors in the pinball market before and after their entry into the video game world.
The 1984 split of Atari was really weird, as the intellectual properties were similarly split (for example, Atari Games could make Centipede games in the arcade and Atari Corp. could make Centipede games for consoles/computers).
When Williams acquired Midway in 1988, they only retained the services of two Midway game designers. Although Williams kept the Midway name alive and used it even more than the Williams brand, the original Midway basically died with this acquisition. This wasn’t really a huge loss, though, as the original Midway was really much better at importing Japanese games than creating games of its own.
Williams decided to leave the video game business in 1998, turning over all of their original intellectual properties to Midway and then spinning Midway off into an independent company.
Midway’s decision to close its arcade division in 2001 is significant from an Atari Games perspective, as the arcade was the only arena in which Midway/Atari Games had the rights to use pre-1984 properties (although they never really used them, anyway).
Atari (1972-1983): Pong, Breakout, Warlords, Asteroids, Centipede, Battlezone, Missile Command, Star Wars
Midway (1973-1987): Wizard of Wor, Rampage (also imported Space Invaders, Galaxian, Pac-Man)
Williams (1973-1987): Defender, Blaster, Robotron 2084, Joust
Atari Games (1984-1995): Marble Madness, Paperboy, Gauntlet, Pit Fighter, Rampart, KLAX, Primal Rage, Area 51
Williams-Midway (1988-1998): NARC, Smash TV, Mortal Kombat, NBA Jam, Cruis’n, NFL Blitz, Revolution X
Atari Games (1996-2003): Wayne Gretzky’s 3D Hockey, San Francisco Rush
Midway (1999-present): Hydro Thunder, Ready 2 Rumble, TNA Impact