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Atari CEO on launching crypto token: Blockchain gaming has 'tremendous potential'

Atari CEO Fred Chesnais joins Yahoo Finance Live to discuss the gaming company’s launch of their new cryptocurrency and the future of gaming industry.

Video Transcript

- I want to turn our attention right now to some interesting moves in the crypto space. You might know Atari as the video game pioneer from the '70s. You also might know them as the Nintendo third party that brought its classics like Pac-Man to the Nintendo Switch.

But now that same Atari is looking to evolve yet again with the Atari cryptocurrency, and plans for an Ethereum based token to power online casinos and Esports betting services as well. For more on those plans, we're joined here by the CEO of Atari, Fred Chesnais, along with Yahoo Finance's Dan Roberts playing in here as well.

And Fred, appreciate you taking the time. I mean, we've seen a lot of these cryptocurrency, these specific branded tokens come out with not much real purpose behind the projects. This seems a little bit different. What's making Atari strategy different from those?

FRED CHESNAIS: Good morning. Thanks for having me. I believe our goal is first and foremost to be on the blockchain, to offer as many games and as many interactive experiences as we can. This is a very evolving space. You have new games, new initiatives almost every day. What's going to work? We know what's going to work today. But after that, it's really a long-term strategy.

So as part of that, if you really want to have a solid strategy and have a chance on the long run, I believe you need to have your own utility token. And this is what we're doing. So [INAUDIBLE] on the one hand, as you've said, games, any type of game.

We've already started with some city building games. We also have what is called non-fungible tokens. We'll think about collectible cards on the Blockchain. And we keep working on those. We're going to make some more announcements next week about new NFTs, as they are called, non-fungible tokens.

And at the same time, these tokens can be purchased with the Atari tokens. So this is really an integrated move, I would say.

DAN ROBERTS: Fred, Dan Roberts here. Thanks for joining us. You mentioned the token as a utility token and more on the way. Let's get an update on the VCS console, which I know is going to incorporate Blockchain. And you guys are really kind of pumping a whole ecosystem here. But I know the pandemic delayed that a little bit.

I feel like, for a few years, having covered cryptocurrencies, we've heard from a lot of gaming companies that Blockchain for games is the future. But we haven't really seen anything big come out of it yet. You guys expect to change that. Do you really see this as the future?

Or is it going to be kind of a combination of e-gaming, Blockchain based gaming, and still physical consoles as well. What's kind of the next frontier here?

FRED CHESNAIS: I mean, I'm not sure about the console. I'm not sure about whether the hardware will make a-- I guess, would play a very significant part in all of this. But everything else, Esports, collectible cards-- think about baseball cards on the Blockchain on the internet-- all of these experiences, yeah, they will matter.

If you look at the industry of video games 15 years ago, we were still doing games in boxes. Your free-to-play was not even available. It was just starting, maybe in Korea. So we still have a very long way to go, I think.

At the same time, we have to follow, and we are kind of constrained by the existing limitations on the Blockchain-- the number of players, the number of concurrent users that you can have on the Blockchain. You have many more Blockchains coming as well. It's not on the Ethereum. You have other types of platforms.

At the end of the day, what makes it very interesting, very entertaining, so to say, is that you're sure about the result. You know many baseball cards are out of there. You can trade, then, very easily on the Blockchain. And you'll see more and more interactive experiences. So it's going to be all of the above.

What's going to work at the end of the day? You just have to be humble. But this is a space that I didn't want to ignore because I believe that this is a space that has tremendous potential and long term growth opportunities.

DAN ROBERTS: Yeah. And just to follow up on that. I mean, you mentioned the limitations of Blockchain tech. We've heard about so many kind of pie in the sky visions. But you guys can only move as quickly as the technology moves and as the general space progresses, right?

And I would just ask if you're worried at all about the ease of use here. With the traditional video game console, it's pick up and play. It's simple. It's kind of self intuitive. But when we talk about having people buy tokens and be able to use those tokens as in-game currency and that kind of next frontier, there's a little bit of a learning curve there for people, right?

FRED CHESNAIS: I believe there is a learning curve. But also, I believe that we've already found ways to-- you know, you can have the right Bitcoin. So there are many, many ways to circumvent and to have fun without-- and in even the limits of the system. At the end of the day, you know, we are all in this business because we believe that we're going to find solutions.

And we're on the creative space. So we know about what it takes to do something-- succeed to do something, fail, and come back. I believe it's such a lot of fun being able to play on the Blockchain, that we know that this is going to work. And even if you were talking about the consoles-- compare PlayStation 1 to the last version of the PlayStation. You know that they've made tremendous progress. So we know it's a technical issue. So it's not-- it's easy, so we say quote, unquote, "easy to solve," meaning knowing there are solutions. It just takes, you know, just takes a little bit of time to get them implemented.

But at the end of the day, I think it's worth the trip. It's worth the experience. And for us, it's definitely worth the effort of being able, or trying to deliver something entertaining on the Blockchain with the Atari token and the Atari brand.

- Fred, it's been fascinating to see the evolution of Atari. You know, going from sort of the original games that many people remember to looking at the entertainment space as a whole. You've got a number of hotels planned for opening in 2022. We've seen huge growth in this space during the pandemic.

And I know 2022 is still a ways away. But I'm wondering how you see the growth opportunity, if you see it differently now, in a post pandemic world, given just the acceleration that we have seen in the space over the last several months.

FRED CHESNAIS: Look, I think the pandemic has definitely changed a lot of [? ideas ?] and the fact that we thought we were taking forever for granted. So as far as we are concerned-- I can't speak for anybody else, but as far as we are concerned, we're just very mindful. And I believe we have knowledge, but the world has definitely changed.

You don't look at work in the office, the retail experience, traveling like before. And I think this is going to stay. This is one of the major health crises that this generation has experienced. I believe that this is going to stay as a landmark event for-- not only for the year but really for our generation.

And you've said, you know-- just like as you've just said, post COVID-- you know, before COVID we used to do things differently. And now this has changed. So we're just very mindful. We are very happy, on our end, just to be online and mobile, so no physical distribution.

We got hurt, yeah, because we have a lot of products that are sold at retail by your licensees. And, you know, retail is just not what it used to be pre-COVID. So yes, we got hurt. But at the same time, we've seen tremendous growth in the online and digital sectors. So it's just like cards being reshuffled big time. That's all. And we just have to deal with the reality.

- And now doubling down on that digital effort here as well. We do appreciate the time here, the CEO of Atari, Fred Chesnais, along with Yahoo Finance's, Dan Roberts. Thanks to you both for coming on. Appreciate it.